He has a name and backstory befitting Hollywood, and in Birmingham on Sunday night Delicious Orie proved he might just have the talent to match.
The Russian-born Englishman has been tipped in some quarters as the man to follow in Anthony Joshua’s footsteps to global domination. Step one was Commonwealth super-heavyweight gold against India’s Sagar Sagar. Now for the rest.
“The sky is the only limit,” said Orie, 25. “My inspiration has always been Anthony Joshua. That’s the bare minimum. Anything is possible.”
Fighting just 20 minutes from his family home in Wolverhampton, 6ft 6in Orie looked to be staring down a barrel after losing the first round on all the judges’ scorecards, with Sagar attempting to load up with every punch.
The Englishman soon gained the upper hand though, as Sagar’s whole-body haymakers caused the Indian to tire prematurely. With Sagar receiving a nasty cut above his left eye in the third round, it was no surprise when the decision was unanimous in favour of Orie.
Asked if he was ever worried, Orie said: “I might have been doubted, but I will always prove people wrong.”
It has been a remarkable journey to this point. The son of a Nigerian father and Russian mother, Orie spent the first seven years of his life near Moscow, where he and his family felt the full force of the country’s often discriminatory attitudes towards people of different skin colours.
When they moved to Britain, he then found himself grappling with an entirely different culture and could not speak the language.
Like Joshua, he did not try on a boxing glove until he was 18, with his initial dream to follow fellow immigrant Luol Deng in making a career in basketball. That ambition was quashed when he was unable to gain a British passport in time to secure a scholarship to an American college, at which point he decided to see what the boxing game was about.
'That England flag will be with me forever'
So unfamiliar was he with the sport at that point that he had not even heard of Joshua until the former Olympic champion won his first professional title in 2016.
That would soon change. Orie, a first-class economics and management graduate, has since spent hundreds of hours studying videos of heavyweight boxing greats. He is mentored by Frazer Clarke, who won Commonwealth super-heavyweight gold four years ago, and in recent years he has sparred with Joshua, who he credits with installing a belief that he can succeed on the international stage. Now he hopes to emulate the former world champion by winning Olympic gold in 2024 and stepping up to the professional ranks.
“I am so proud to be English and hopefully today I’ve made everybody proud in England,” said Orie. “I will be doing this until the Paris Olympics, when I turn professional. That England flag will be with me forever.”
England’s only other boxing gold went to another man from the Midlands, heavyweight Lewis Williams, who made the short trip from Leamington Spa to see off Samoa’s Ato Leau Plodzicki-Faoagali by unanimous decision.
After a strong start from the Samoan, Williams used his jab to seize control before inflicting some vicious shots, lifting Plodzicki-Faoagali off his feet with one brutal right uppercut.
“I felt good,” said Williams. “I felt I still had a few more levels to get to. I could have made it even easier by keeping up my range, using my feet some more.”
Rosie Eccles finally gained redemption after ending a prolonged run of misfortune to win one of two Welsh boxing titles in Birmingham with an emphatic second-round stoppage of Australia’s Kaye Scott for light-middleweight gold.
Eccles was on the wrong end of a controversial split-decision defeat in the 2018 Commonwealth final. She subsequently missed out on a place at the Tokyo Olympics when her body was attacked by a mystery virus and was denied a second chance by the Covid pandemic.
“I’m always a very optimistic person, but even I started thinking I was suffering a bit of a boxing curse,” said Eccles. “I was starting to think it just wasn’t going to happen. To come through all of this and win gold is just amazing.”
Ioan Croft was Wales’ other champion. Scotland’s Sam Hickey, Sean Lazzerini and Reese Lynch all won gold, while Northern Irish brother and sister Aidan and Michaela Walsh both triumphed. Dylan Eagleson, Amy Broadhurst and Jude Gallagher also won gold for Northern Ireland.