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Dreams of Stateside success for Billam-Smith ahead of Riakporhe return | Boxing News


By Oscar Pick


Success is perhaps the most ambiguous word in the English language. Whether driven by titles, money or fame, there are always contrasting interpretations of what it means to be successful.

For Chris Billam-Smith, there is a desire to succeed in defining his legacy, quite simply by headlining shows at football stadiums and unifying belts in America.

“Fighting at two Premier League stadiums in the space of 13 months is crazy,” he said, reminiscing about winning a world title at the Vitality Stadium while looking ahead to his showdown at Selhurst Park this Saturday (June 15). 

The domestic dustup taking place at the home of Crystal Palace FC is not just any title defence, though. 

It is, as it happens, a mouthwatering rematch, where the WBO cruiserweight champion’s relentless work rate will meet the pulverising knockout power of Richard Riakporhe.

Since their first encounter – which Riakporhe narrowly edged on points back in 2019 – Billam-Smith has refined his skills in the ring while establishing himself as a prolific ticket seller on the South Coast.

It was just over a year ago when he outpointed his former stablemate, Lawrence Okolie, at the very ground where he once held an AFC Bournemouth season ticket.

But a few days later, coming away from the pandemonium created by the sold-out crowd, he discovered that a selection of fans had taken their excitement beyond the extreme.

“A man, who I ended up meeting, had to leave before my fight because people kicked off,” Billam-Smith recalled.

“He was there with his two sons, who were about 15 or 16 years old. They were singing Bournemouth songs, as expected, and I think the opposing team’s fans kicked off. 

“The man got a bit of his ear bitten off – it’s just horrendous. Leave the fighting to the fighters.”

This primitive behaviour is never too far removed from football but, with regards to boxing, it is somewhat baffling that a similar in-group mentality – towards “away fans” – actually exists. 

So please, let’s remember that this weekend’s fight is between Billam-Smith and Riakporhe, not Bournemouth and Palace. 

GAME ON PROMOTION. CHRIS BILLAM-SMITH TRAINING, McGUIGAN GYM,LEYTON, LONDON. PIC LAWRENCE LUSTIG/BOXXER (PICS FREE FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY). WBO CRUISERWEIGHT WORLD CHAMPION CHRIS BILLAM-SMITH PREPARES FOR HIS TITLE DEFENCE AGAINST RICHARD RIAKPORHE AT CRYSTAL PALACE FC’S SELHURST PARK STADIUM ON BEN SHALOMS BOXXER PROMOTION LIVE ON SKY SPORTS ON SATURDAY JUNE 15TH.

Back to the world of professional sports, it is often difficult for an athlete to find motivation once they have realised their ambitions.

Without making the mistake of looking beyond his next opponent, Billam-Smith has developed a new goal since ticking the Vitality Stadium off his bucket list.

“There’s only three names left in the hat: the other world champions,” he said. “I can’t see why the fight [with Gilberto Ramirez] couldn’t happen. He fights in America and, for me, that’s a dream.” 

Having exchanged Instagram DMs with the newly-crowned WBA champion, ‘The Gentleman’ is confident that both parties are keen for the fight to take place. 

Ramirez became a two-weight world champion after dethroning Arsen Goulamirian at the Youtube Theater, California, on a DAZN card promoted by Golden Boy in March. 

The unification would, in all likelihood, make for a compelling clash of styles. But, for Billam-Smith, as long as he is able to make his US debut, it could be any one of the other champions standing in the opposite corner.

“Staying up till silly o’clock in the morning to watch Ricky Hatton, and seeing Darren Barker and Kell Brook win their world titles [in America] – those fights all stand out for me,” he said.

“I remember watching them all on Sky Sports, thinking: ‘this looks amazing.’”

The attraction of America clearly still holds a great deal of weight, despite everyone waxing untold lyrical about Saudi Arabia emerging as the new home of big-time boxing.

However, until he gets the opportunity to fly across the pond, with planes full of his adoring fans following closely behind, Billam-Smith must rubber-stamp his dominance in the UK.

He said: “[The Riakporhe fight] is a huge opportunity to clear up the domestic scene; to go down as the top of the tree in this great era of British cruiserweights.”

By becoming the first world champion from Bournemouth since Freddie Mills, the 33-year-old has already surpassed what many would have expected of him. 

But fighting at two Premier League stadiums and performing in front of a state-side audience would be a captivating success story in itself, potentially overshadowing any trinkets or paychecks.



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