Chris Billam-Smith retains title with impressive unanimous decision ...

16 Jun 2024

Published 15/06/2024 at 22:49 GMT

Chris Billam-Smith's only career defeat came against Richard Riakporhe in 2019, but he had his revenge on Saturday night in London. Billam-Smith retain his WBO cruiserweight championship with a unanimous victory against Riakporhe, while light heavyweight Ben Whittaker claimed the vacant WBA Gold belt against Ezra Arenyeka on the undercard earlier in the evening.

Chris Bllam-Smith

Chris Billam-Smith - Figure 1

Image credit: Getty Images

WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith’s disciplined performance at Selhurst Park on Saturday night earned him a unanimous decision against Richard Riakporhe in London.

Billam-Smith is used to fighting at football stadiums, having won his title against Lawrence Okolie last year at his home city’s Vitality Stadium, the home venue for Premier League side Bournemouth.

There was more than just a world title at stake for the two men, with Riakporhe the only man to have inflicted a professional defeat on Billam-Smith, way back in 2019.

The two men had argued about 33-year-old Billam-Smith’s supposed decline in recent years, which the incumbent had been confident of dismissing in the build-up.

BIllam-Smith appeared to be in front for the first few rounds, but both men were capable of landing heavy blows. 

While the champion looked to be edging ahead and in control, he first rattled Riakporhe with a heavy right hook, only to be momentarily stunned by one from his opponent’s left in the eighth, with wear and tear starting to leave both men vulnerable ahead of the championship rounds.

The next round seemed to go to Riakporhe when he had Billam-Smith on the ropes, but in the follow-up, Billam-Smith ended a difficult round with a flurry of his own blows.

While the conclusion saw both men push hard through fatigue, Billam-Smith was happy enough with his performance to celebrate before the judges’ scores came through.

His efforts were sufficient to earn him a clear unanimous victory, winning 116-111 for one judge and 115-112 for the remaining two.

There are now three potential unification fights that might tempt Billam-Smith back into the ring in the coming months.

Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez holds the WBA strap, with Norair Mikaeljan the WBC champion, and the IBF belt held once more by Jai Opetaia.

Speaking after the win in the ring, Billam-Smith said: "I liked to think I boxed it to a 'T'. I'm really proud with the performance. "

He said the difference between the two fighters was the "experience, the speed and the game plan," he brought to the bout.

Even more appealing could be the return of undisputed heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk to the division after he suggested he may return to his previous weight in future fights.

Whittaker earns first title

Earlier in the evening, showboating light heavyweight Ben Whittaker secured a unanimous decision over Ezra Arenyeka on the undercard to win his first belt.

The former Olympian claimed the vacant WBA Gold light heavyweight championship with the win, and could find himself linked with high-profile fights at 175lb in the coming weeks.

The division’s undisputed status will be settled in October when Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev clash in October, which could see the belts then broken up for new challengers.- - -

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