Lawrence Okolie, understandably, is doing everything he can to prepare ahead of his British Beef fight with Isaac Chamberlain on February 3rd. Joshua Buatsi is on the same card, facing Jordan Joseph in a cruiserweight battle underpinned by a social media-driven rivalry.
The dynamics of the fight night aside, something else ties the two men in their preparations
The Oslo Boxing Club in Norway sits not far from the Port of Oslo, where the Glomma River meets the Øyeren lake. It’s here that Kevin Melhus trains, in a club that moonlights as a modest fight-night venue.
Melhus is steadily finding his way up the global cruiserweight rankings. The 28-year-old has his own fight the night Okolie, Chamberlain and company get their swagger on and bury the sideshow that’s inflamed by a want of others as well as themselves. Melhus will be fighting his fourth professional fight at the Sør Amfi in Arendal, a three and a half hour coastal drive south of Oslo.
Here he will face Istvan Ku in a six-round undercard cruiserweight clash.
So, the relevance with regards to the O2 at the beginning of next month? Melhus is a native of Skien – one of Norway’s oldest cities that has produced all types; from science fiction author and playwright Tor Age Bringsvaerd to former Rosenberg and Norwegian international striker Frode Johnson. Melhus recently made his way through over 700 miles sky highway to spar in London.
Okolie and Buatsi were glad to step in with the Norwegian who at 28 may seem old to be pursuing his professional purses, but in an era when improved conditioning and fitness are prevalent, he could still easily have six or seven years before reactions slow and feet start lacking that bit of spring.
In his first fight as a professional, which he fought in Oslo, it was the first time a professional Norwegian boxer had fought on home soil since 1981.
That night he knocked out German Christian Dulz, at the multi-purpose Spektrum arena, more used to hosting Lana Del Ray and Snoop Dogg, than a rising star in a sport that ranks considerably behind football, Ice Hockey and Cross Country Skiing.
Another two fights later, and Melhus still wants to test himself, ahead of his fight with Kun; a Hungarian six years his junior with a record that mixes promise and inconsistency.
Hence London, hence Okolie and Buatsi. But there was plenty in it for the two Londoners. The solid sparring opposition they needed ahead of their respective fights.
Boxers give little away in the aftermath of sparring sessions. The little he did say though, showed the good stead in which he held both men.
“The sparring has been great. Lawrence is a real good boxer with a huge range and Joshua is a future world champion, mark my words. I’m happy to have had this opportunity. To get this level of sparring at this stage of my career is very important.”
All eyes will be on the O2 on February 2nd. But when things settle down, in the aftermath there is little doubt that Okolie and Buatsi will be checking to see how things developed in Oslo, that same night.