Lawrence Okolie searching for ‘statement’ win against hometown hero Chris Billam-Smith in Bournemouth

Lawrence Okolie has promised to make a “big statement” as the WBO cruiserweight champion gears up to defend his crown against Chris Billam-Smith in Bournemouth on Saturday.

‘The Sauce’ has attracted criticism of late for a series of somewhat underwhelming performances, the last being his decision win over David Light earlier this year.

That comes after a protracted move to join Sky Sports and BOXXER following a split from Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom promotion.

Still, Okolie has taken on a big challenge in what looks his biggest fight to date.

Former sparring partners with the former Commonwealth and European title-holder Billam-Smith at Shane McGuigan’s gym, traveling to the south coast for a stadium fight offers the chance of kickstarting his career.

Heavy-handed and with an increasing highlight reel of knockouts, ‘The Gentleman’ will be backed on by fervent home support at the Vitality Stadium.

Okolie, however, insists he is paying little attention to having to take on a hometown hero.

"I’m coming to make an extremely big statement," Okolie declared. "I’m my own man on my own journey and there’s stuff that I want and need and I’m ready to fight for it."