Chris Billam-Smith ‘excited’ to settle rivalry with Richard Riakporhe in London

On Saturday, WBO cruiserweight titlist Chris Billam-Smith will put his belt on the line against old rival Richard Riakporhe at Selhurst Park, London, the home of Premier League soccer team Crystal Palace.

Billam-Smith, rated at No. 1 by The Ring at cruiserweight, and Riakporhe will lock horns nearly five years after their all-British dust up in front of a crowd in the region of 20,000 fans.

“I’m really excited, it’s an opportunity to put the first fight to bed. It was a split decision, anyone in competitive sport would want an opportunity to avenge a loss, and there’s obviously that opportunity for me,” Billam-Smith (19-1, 13 knockouts) told The Ring. “It’s another domestic world title fight, which is exciting, they’re the fights you want to be involved with when you’re coming through in Britain, you look at all the domestic rivalries, the one’s people love. It’s another football stadium, there’s a huge amount to be excited about.

“It’s another fight that shows the cruiserweights are fighting each other. I think the division needs a bit more props whether that’s domestically or abroad. Everyone is fighting everyone pretty much, there’s no ducking and diving, there’s no drama, it’s just people getting in the ring and putting on the best fights that there are out there.”

Both men have come a long way since Riakporhe edged Billam-Smith by 10-round split decision on a summer’s evening at the O2 Arena, in London.

Billam-Smith has claimed the British, Commonwealth and European titles before completing his journey by winning a world title against Lawrence Okolie on a sun-kissed night last May.

Meanwhile, Riakporhe has won seven fights and is on a five fight knockout streak.

“[I was] really confident going into [the first fight], I was nowhere near where I am now ability-wise,” said Billam-Smith. “I knew everyone was writing me off. I felt in control of the fight after six-rounds to be honest. I thought I’ll take of the seventh round because I’d never done 10-rounds before. I’d done eight-rounds, once. He was much physically stronger back then. I took a round off and he upped it that round as well, it swung in his favor in a big way and I thought I came on strong in the last few rounds. It was a great learning experience for me and that’s shown.

“People get caught up on keeping their unbeaten record, which is obviously the name of the game but if you never role the dice in those early stages and have tough fights you’re never going to learn and figure out where you can get to.”

Having fought each other they know their counterpart’s skill-set and what they can potentially take advantage of.

“His best attribute is his punch-power,” said the titlist. “I don’t think it’s as devastating as people make it out to be. He does punch solid enough. At cruiserweight everyone can punch and he’s one of the bigger punchers in the division. He carries his power with a variety of punches, whether that’s bodyshots, hooks, straight shots, left hand, right hand. I think that’s kind of got him out of trouble over the years, he may have been losing rounds and his power has got him out of situations.”

Richard Riakporhe (right) Photo by Lawrence Lustig/ Boxxer

While Billam-Smith would have liked to have had home advantage, he had to cede that because of a scheduling conflict.

“It’s because the fight is going to be June 15 and AFC Bournemouth can’t do it,” he explained. “The promoter wanted to do it in Bournemouth but I think they didn’t have time in terms of when they got the date and the new pitch for the new season. I spoke to the chief executive and they said they couldn’t do it unfortunately, they would have loved to have been able to have done it but football takes precedent as a fan I don’t want to damage anything that could be detrimental to next season, so we’re at Selhurst Park.

“I’m quite excited about it to be honest, it’s another football stadium. That was such a special night winning the world title [at the Vitality, Bournemouth] it gives me more motivation going away for a fight.

“I went down there for a game to do a bit of promotion and it was good to experience it and figure out where we’re going to be walking from. It’s an exciting time.”

Last time out, in his maiden defense, Billam-Smith has some issues with experienced veteran Mateusz Masternak but ultimately found a way to beat the tough Polish fighter.

“I knew he would give me problems to be honest, I said before the fight, he was going to be my hardest to date because I knew the style he brought, he’s got good hands, he’s got a herky jerky style. I had a really good sixth and seventh round and damaged his rib in there. He’d been stopped once before [against Grigory Drozd] in round 11, he’d been stopped on his feet.

“He’s obviously a super talented fighter, been there or there abouts at world level for years and years. I’m really pleased in terms that it wasn’t my best performance but to get the best result anyone has against him and not my best performance, gives me great confidence and it’s not like it was a contentious points decision or anything like that.”

The diligent champion, who trains in London with Shane McGuigan, isn’t resting on his laurels and has been training with one eye on this fight since just after Christmas.

“I come up on a Sunday night and go home on a Friday afternoon,” he said of his training regime. “I’ve been doing that since mid-February. Training in January three days a week from the start of January. Gradually ramping it up week by week. Similar to how I was in the Lawrence fight last year. Closer to the fight the more technical it gets and the more sparring we do.”

The forward-thinking Billam-Smith has let himself look into the future and knows what he wants.

“I always plan ahead and think what’s next because that’s always how I’ve done it,” he said. “For me, it’s about getting the win and after June 15, the one I like the most is the ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez fight because growing up I used to watch the fights abroad with Ricky Hatton, used to love that and been fortunate to be with Luke Campbell on a few American away trips and they’ve always been really good, so I’d love to fight over in America.

“That’s kind of my next dream now after fulfilling my dream [of winning a world title] at the Vitality Stadium. The next one for me would be over in America and I think Zurdo is the one who can give me that. If we can get another fight out there then great but I think Zurdo in a unification out there, whether that’s L.A. or Las Vegas or whatever it would be amazing to go over there maybe 5/ 6 weeks before and do a proper camp out there and the whole experience. That’s what it is for me now, it’s about life experiences. Being able to unify is great and you only get one career and I want to experience as much as possible and tick plenty of boxes.”

Riakporhe (17-0, 13 KOs), rated at No. 5 by The Ring at cruiserweight, scored wins over the likes of Sam Hyde (TKO 8) and future European champion Tommy McCarthy (TKO 4), edged domestic rival Billam-Smith (SD 12) and then beat Jack Massey (UD 12).

The 34-year-old spent nearly two-years on the sidelines before returning and showcasing his vaunted power against Deion Jumah (KO 8), Fabio Turchi (TKO 2) and former titlist Krzysztof Glowacki (TKO 4). However, despite being the IBF mandatory to Jai Opetaia, he decided for reasons unknown to pull out of a purse bid.

Billam-Smith-Riakporhe, plus undercard bouts, will be broadcast on Peacock at 2 p.m. ET/ 11 a.m. PT. and on Sky Sports at 7p.m. GMT

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at elraincoat@live.co.uk.

The post Chris Billam-Smith ‘excited’ to settle rivalry with Richard Riakporhe in London appeared first on The Ring.

Leave a Reply