Gareth A. Davies is one of many people who believe WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie should have been disqualified for the excessive grappling he did in his twelve round majority decision loss to Chris Billiam-Smith at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, England.
Referee Marcus McDonnell wasn’t having it, choosing to deduct points from Okolie (19-1, 14 KOs) in rounds five and seven, but he still let him off easy by not going the full yard by tossing him out of there.
It was obvious that Okolie was gaming the system by throwing one or two shots and then diving in to wrap Billiam-Smith in a clinch to keep him from getting his shots off.
Billiam Smith eventually timed these moves by Okolie and dropped him three times to get the win by the scores 116-107, 112-112, and 115-108.
Okolie should have been disqualified
“It’s a fantastic atmosphere. I watched it. I mean, I picked Okolie myself to win by late stoppage and was obviously wrong, but when I watched the fight back yesterday, you know, and having watched it back, my feeling is that [referee] Marcus McDonald should have actually disqualified Lawrence Okolie by about seven or eight rounds,” said Gareth A. Davies to TalkSport Boxing.
“I mean, I was taken up the in the kind of atmosphere, the balmy atmosphere on the night obviously we’re doing live commentary, and we were scoring it. Okolie was winning some of the rounds, but there were five points taken off for the three knockdowns and the two points for the holding, when I looked back on it yesterday, honestly, I got to about round seven, and I was screaming at the TV on the second time I’m watching it, thinking, ‘No, Marcus you should have actually disqualified Lawrence.’
“Yeah, it was just relentless,” said Gareth when asked if he felt Okolie should have been disqualified due to the grappling he was doing with Billiam-Smith. “I think there was something like nine warnings during the fight, and it was just too much.
“When you go back in the day, Simon will remember this. Mills Lane, the referee that never accepted things like that, and if you remember Lennox Lewis and Henry Akinwande. Atkinwande didn’t want to fight. He was disqualified.
“That’s really what should happen because, again, without wanting to take away anything from being involved on the night, I just think it’s one of the worst World title fights I’ve ever seen in terms of what happened in terms of I’m holding and grappling. Consistent holding and grappling in the ring on the night. Billiam-Smith is rightfully the champion,” said Gareth.
Lawrence would have been booed
“Yeah, I mean it wasn’t so much because obviously, Chris Billiam-Smith was a home fighter who came into, you know, a very good atmosphere and did a job and got the outcome that all the fans inside the stadium would have wanted, and they saw other fights in. Sam Eggington put up a great performance in stopping Joe Pickford in the fight before,” said Simon Jordan.
“So Gareth was absolutely right. The quality of the fight wasn’t great, and the manner in which Lawrence elected to behave, which has been a constant, you know, the thing with him, brought about a situation where I was saying to Ben Shalom during the fight, ‘He’s going to get disqualified soon if he’s not careful, but the very nature of Chris Billiam-Smith coming through, when you look at the disadvantages that you had.
“You look at the size of Okolie compared to Chris, but you look at the wingspan difference, but that wasn’t a great fight it was a great outcome for Chris Billiam-Smith, and there’s not a nicer kid around to win a world title.
“I think Gareth will attest to that, but it wasn’t quality it wasn’t a quality fight. It was an emotional evening. If that had been in the O2 or in London, people would have been booing because the quality wasn’t there but because it was the nature of the circumstance, with the home fighter potentially going to win a world title.
“I mean, what did you make of Okolie? I thought he came in, Gav. He was so loose and so relaxed; it was almost like he was leaning back,” said Simon.
Referees may penalize Okolie now
“Yeah, definitely, it was a very strange performance from him,” said Gareth. “I think what’s happened is his ‘Smash & Grab’ style, as I’ve called it for a while. You know where he throws a jab, moves in two steps, and holds, and he’s done it now consistently in his career.
“Up to this point, no one really had been able to put a dent in him. It was slightly exposed by the boxing of David Light, the Australian, but what Chris Billiam-Smith did, knowing Lawrence, from having sparred hundreds of rounds with him because they were stable-mates under trainer Shane McGuigan, was exposed to style.
“The problem for Lawrence now, even though he’s called the rematch, is that he’ll get called out by every referee now, and I fear for him that he will not be able to change his style at this age. I dare to think what the rematch is going to look like,” said Gareth about Okolie.