This week’s Spotlight focuses on Bournemouth Cruiserweight Chris Billam-Smith as he returns home once more, this time at his beloved AFC Bournemouth’s ground The Vitality Stadium. He faces former stablemate and WBO World Cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie as he looks to dethrone his old sparring partner!
Billam-Smith’s foray into boxing began modestly, training sporadically as a youngster. However, it was at the age of 16 that he made a firm commitment to the sport, channeling his energy into honing his boxing skills. Representing Poole ABC, Billam-Smith amassed an impressive record of 32-11 while competing in multiple ABA Championships. Notably, he reached the finals in 2013 and 2016, narrowly missing out on victory against formidable opponents Jack Massey and Cheavon Clarke, respectively.
Spotlight On Chris Billam-Smith
In 2017, “The Gentleman” made the pivotal decision to turn professional under the tutelage of esteemed trainer Shane McGuigan. On September 16 of that year, he made his professional debut at the O2 Academy in Bournemouth, Dorset. It was a scintillating start to his journey, as Billam-Smith secured a first-round technical knockout (TKO) victory over Russ Henshaw, announcing his arrival with authority.
Building on his initial success, Billam-Smith (17-1, 12 KOs) embarked on a relentless pursuit of greatness. After compiling an impressive record of 9-0, with eight knockout victories, he faced Richard Riakporhe, another undefeated British prospect, on July 20, 2019. The WBA Inter-Continental cruiserweight title was up for grabs. The fight took place at London’s revered O2 Arena and was broadcasted live on Sky Sports Box Office as part of the undercard for the Dillian Whyte vs. Oscar Rivas bout. In a closely contested affair, Billam-Smith suffered his first professional defeat via split decision after ten grueling rounds.
Undeterred by adversity, Billam-Smith bounced back in his subsequent bout on November 23, 2019, against Craig Glover at Liverpool’s M&S Bank Arena for the vacant Commonwealth cruiserweight belt. The bout was televised live on Sky Sports in the UK and streamed on DAZN in the US, adding further exposure. Billam-Smith captured the title with a 5th-round stoppage after knocking Glover down 3 times!
Billam-Smith’s next fight was on August 7, 2020, as he defended his Commonwealth title against Nathan Thorley at Matchroom Sports headquarters in Brentwood, Essex. Live at “Fight Camp” he successfully retained his title with a 2nd round KO.
July 31, 2021, he faced Tommy McCarthy in a highly anticipated bout. This clash carried not only the Commonwealth title but also the British and European cruiserweight titles. In a closely contested affair, Billam-Smith emerged victorious via a split decision. The judges’ scored it 116-112 and 115-114 in his favor, alongside a score of 115-114 for McCarthy. He made his first European title defense against Dylan Bregeon on November 13, 2021, at the Sheffield Arena, securing a unanimous decision victory with scores of 120-109, 119-109, and 119-109.
2022 was a pivotal year for him and on April 16, he faced Tommy McCarthy once again. Billam-Smith left no doubt about his superiority this time though, delivering a crushing blow in the eighth round that sent McCarthy to the canvas. The victory showcased his growth as a fighter and his ability to seize opportunities when they arise.
He would then go on to sign for Ben Shalom’s Boxxer and go back to fighting on Sky Sports. His next 2 fights would take him hometown, fighting at the Bournemouth International Centre.
He successfully defended his Commonwealth and European cruiserweight titles against Isaac Chamberlain in what was deemed a 50/50 fight. The judges’ scorecards of 117-111 unanimously declared Billam-Smith the winner, further solidifying his place among the elite in the division as he eyed a world title shot.
In December he defeated Kosovo’s Armend Xhoxhaj with a brutal 5th-round KO and called for a fight at The Vitality Stadium and a world title fight. Saturday night he will be cheered on by 15,000 fans as he looks to bring the WBO World Title to the South Coast.
The man standing in his way will be former training partner and friend Lawrence Okolie. The pair sparred hundreds of rounds together in Shane McGuigan’s gym and Chris Billam-Smith will be hoping to capitalize on any weaknesses he may have discovered over the years.
By Lee Browne