Lawrence Okolie is still learning the lessons from two distant defeats as he prepares to face Poland’s Krzysztof Glowacki for the WBO cruiserweight title on Saturday night.
The 28-year-old Londoner has racked up 15 straight wins, all but three by stoppage, since turning professional in the wake of his appearance at the Rio Olympics.
But Okolie revealed his apparently unstoppable force is fuelled by the memory of two losses to world-class Cuban Erislandy Savon, who knocked him out in one round early in 2016 and repeated his win at the Rio Games.
Bidding to become the first male member of Team GB’s Rio alumni to win a world title in the ring, Okolie said: “I think those moments against Savon proved very important to me.
“Until that point it had been very easy for me, I felt I was running through everybody and nobody could deal with me.
“So coming up against someone who was able to beat me convincingly twice allowed me to keep the confidence, but remember to treat boxing with respect, and that is something that has stayed with me ever since.”
Okolie’s amateur trajectory saw him parachuted into the Rio team just three years after he gave up a job working in a McDonald’s to devote himself to the sport.
I have to keep pushing. I’m still very confident, but I’ve always got to be hungry, and I’ve got to get as much as I can as quickly as I can
And his big-hitting wins in the professional ranks swiftly marked him out as a prospective future champion, a billing he hopes to live up to against the experienced Pole.
“I definitely had the belief when I was an amateur, but I always knew I had the pros to go into, so I felt quite content to reach the Olympics,” he added.
“But you only get one shot as a professional boxer, and I always told myself I would never allow myself to feel content again – when I get the world title shot, and then when I get the world title, there has to be more.
“I have to keep pushing. I’m still very confident, but I’ve always got to be hungry, and I’ve got to get as much as I can as quickly as I can.”