Boxing rivalries.  It’s all part of the narrative.  Sometimes falsehoods.  Sometimes with its root in genuine disdain for an opponent.  So what of Lawrence Okolie and Isaac Chamberlain?  The two cruiserweights meet in the O2 Arena on Saturday, February 3rd.  Is the rivalry riddled with malice, or is it all for a show?

British Beef.  They are the words that greet you in the promotional images of a fight night that promises much.  As of January 15th, only 70 seats remain, in an arena that holds 15,000 when setting up for boxing.  That’s less than 1%.  The interest is there.   Sky Sports will broadcast a night that also features Reece Bellotti defend his Commonwealth Featherweight title against Ben Jones.  Bellotti finished former titleholder Jason Cunningham in October with a fusion of uppercuts and hooks, in a performance underpinned by work rate.  Jones, 8 years his senior, despite his height, fights on the inside.  It will be a battle of attrition.



It’s not the only other fight on the bill.  Ted Cheeseman and Carson Jones will fight for the vacant WBA International Super Welterweight belt.  It will also be an opportunity for Rio Olympian Joshua Buatsi to shine further into the public consciousness and for Felix Cash to move to 8-0 in his burgeoning career.

But as a spectacle, it is all built around Okolie and Chamberlain.  In its promotional post, The O2 bill it as a contest whereby the two London fighters: “have stirred up a fierce rivalry on social media and in bitter public confrontations, as they build the foundations for impressive beginnings to their respective careers.”

There is nothing wrong in illustrating this.  It’s true.  On social media, the two Matchroom Boxing backed fighters called each other out.  As always, things got heated on Twitter; when does it not.

At the press conference before Christmas, Anthony Joshua bulked up the appeal of an Eddie Hearn fronted press conference, with the two fighters.  The approach Hearn used was interesting.  The conference was only 45 seconds in before the talk began.  The talk of an all-London grudge match.  The talk of South London against East London.  The talk of  Hackney against Brixton. Hearn quickly delved into talk of the undercard, but the marker was made.

What makes boxing great is down to the perspective of each boxing fan.  What’s undeniable is that we love the drama.  Even when it’s fabricated, we buy into it at varying degrees.  But whether it is fabricated or not, what drives it, is hunger.

Lawrence Okolie’s pinned tweet says “And I am reminded that earlier this year I had £7 in my account, now I’m wondering when I’m gonna send my Mum and sis Dubai or move out, how dare I complain Im humbled {sic}”.  Boxing has given him options, and why should he want any man to have the opportunity to take it away?  It’s the want to succeed that drives this apparent rivalry.  It’s not that the rivalry isn’t necessarily real.  It’s that it is rooted in fear and drive, in equal measure.

Okolie and Chamberlain rounded off the press conference telling one another they were going to smoke and punish each other.  Joshua and Hearn smiled.  They were enjoying it.  We all enjoy the back and forth’s, the niggle, the shouting.  The drama.

Because, like the fighters, we’re all aware that it’s the matinee.  The real theatre comes later, on fight night.  By the end, grudges often, are soon forgotten.