Lawrence Okolie was back at his old stomping ground of McDonald’s recently to meet with staff members at the restaurant where he was inspired to start his boxing journey.
Okolie watched on from the staff break room at the Victoria Station branch of the fast food chain back in 2012 as Anthony Joshua won Olympic gold for Team GB, and was inspired to push towards his own goals.
Four years later, he was on Team GB for the 2016 games in Rio, and just under a decade on he won the world title at cruiserweight, beating Krzysztof Glowacki in March of this year.
He has gone on to defend his title once so far, defeating Dilan Prasovic on the undercard of Joshua’s title defence against Oleksandr Usyk last month.
And as he prepares to attempt to unify the division at cruiserweight, Okolie made the return to his former place of work, world title belt in hand.
“It was amazing, it was actually quite emotional,” Okolie said in an exclusive chat with Mirror Fighting.
“I haven’t really been back too often, I was sitting in that same room hearing the same noises smelling the same smells.
“I managed to meet some of the same people who are still there and getting to connect with McDonald’s as a brand as a whole was powerful.
“So much of my journey started from there and now I’m going full circle back, and the circle is bigger and better.”
Okolie managed to sit in the same seat where he watched Joshua win his gold medal, noting that they still have the same TV that he watched almost a decade ago.
“It was surreal,” Okolie explained. “I sat down in the same chair, they even have television!
“It was good to be back.”
It remains to be seen if Okolie will prove the same inspiration that Joshua did to young Brits, but he believes that his story can inspire other young people to make the most of their potential.
He says that his early work life taught him a number of transferable skills that worked for boxing, and would have helped him in other avenues as well.
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“Working at McDonald’s gave me not just stability and direction but opportunities and training too.
“I would honestly say it was one of the best times of my life, working with my brother, making friends I am still close with and learning things like punctuality, confidence and respect.
“Anything is possible if you work hard enough and I encourage all young people to believe in themselves.”
Okolie is planning to return to the ring in a unification bout next, with the other belts in the cruiserweight division spread around between four men.
Mairis Briedis, who holds the IBF title, is set to defend his belt on Saturday night, while the other three champions holding the WBA regular and super belts and the WBC, are currently inactive.
World Champion Boxer Lawrence Okolie has teamed up with McDonald’s to launch a new campaign designed to improve the life chances of thousands of young people.
To find out more, visit mcdonalds.co.uk/planforchange