Lawrence Okolie labours to scrappy win over David Light on return to retain WBO cruiserweight title

And still: Lawrence Okolie beat David Light to retain his WBO cruiserweight title  (PA)
And still: Lawrence Okolie beat David Light to retain his WBO cruiserweight title (PA)

Lawrence Okolie successfully retained his WBO world cruiserweight title with a straightforward but disjointed points victory over David Light in Manchester.

In his first fight for 13 months following an acrimonious split from Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn, the Londoner - now teamed up with Ben Shalom and Boxxer - was not troubled by his mandatory challenger from New Zealand throughout but displayed plenty of ring rust before coming on strong towards the end of an otherwise very low-key contest.

Okolie landed three enormous right hands in the 10th round to liven up dull proceedings inside a quiet AO Arena and then another massive straight right after having a point deducted in the 11th, but Light, to his credit, displayed incredible durability to take those punches and stay upright before somehow making the final bell.

The judges at ringside scored the bout 116-112, 119-108 and 117-110 in favour of ‘The Sauce’, who made the third defence of his WBO belt but has plenty still to work on under Tyson Fury’s trainer SugarHill Steward as he looks to regain some lost momentum in his bid to unify the 200lbs division before a desired jump up to the heavyweight ranks.

It was a first defeat in 21 professional fights for WBO Global, International and Oriental cruiserweight champion Light, a silver medalist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, while Okolie stays unbeaten at 19-0.

On Saturday’s undercard, Tokyo 2020 heavyweight bronze medalist Frazer Clarke withstood an awkward cut to his forehead take the next step on his professional journey with a swift victory over late replacement opponent Bogdan Dinu, who retired after the second round with potential broken ribs.

Fellow British Olympic hero Karriss Artingstall eased to a comfortable points win over the experienced Linzi Buczynski, while Michael Gomez Jr picked up the vacant English super-featherweight title with a controversial split-decision victory over Levi Giles.

New Boxxer signing Callum Simpson impressed hugely on his debut with a destructive third-round knockout of Celso Neves, while Rhys Edwards outpointed Brian Phillips and Aaron McKenna dominated Jordan Grant, who stepped up to take the fight at just 24 hours notice.

There were also early wins for two more exciting prospects in Shakiel Thompson, who dominated Robert Talarek, and Harvey Lambert, whose partner went into labour during his opening win over Casey Brown.