Chris Billam-Smith gets emotional after winning the world title. Photo from Boxxer’s Twitter account
New WBO junior heavyweight champion Chris Billam-Smith has fulfilled his dream by winning the world title in front of his hometown fans at the football stadium of the hometown team he has been rooting for since he was a child.
A crowd of over 15,000 led him to victory on Saturday against his former gymmate Lawrence Okolie at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium in a fight that was odd, peculiar, messy, messy, but also oddly addictive.
Okolie was dropped three times and scored in two rounds while receiving a number of warnings for holding, pushing, bumping for punches, hitting behind the head, as well as using the head.
— BOXXER (@boxxer) May 27, 2023
In a fight that was arguably dramatic due to the lack of final drama, Billam-Smith raised his hand after a majority decision, winning by two cards 116-107 and 115-108, while the third card scored an outlandish 112-112. There always seems to be one.
Billam-Smith is now 18-1 (12 KOs) and former Olympian Okolie is 19-1 and has lost for the first time in his career.
Judge Marcus McDonnell played an important role.
The winner called the night “perfect”, and after making his decision, he fell to his knees in tears where he was hugged in an emotional embrace by his wife Mia.
“Right now I really have no words,” said Billam-Smith. “It was a grueling fight physically. I was pretty sick this week, but Shane (McGuigan) came up with a game plan… We knew we were going to find shots, and in the fourth round, the pace of the fight changed. This is crazy. I can not believe it.
Shane McGuigan said that Billam-Smith’s illness almost caused him to be pulled from the fight, but Billam-Smith said he would not disappoint the 15,000 fans and that the fight could not be postponed.
Okolie had his moments in the fight, but ultimately his negativity was his downfall as bled points throughout the fight.
The fighters were old friends and sparring partners, and coach Shane McGuigan led Billam-Smith – whom he had coached throughout his career – to victory over his old client and former sparring colleague Billam-Smith. It is estimated that the two shared 300 rounds in the gym in the past.
Billam-Smith often tried not to be followed, and the crowd in Bournemouth jumped out for every success he had on the south coast.
Billam-Smith’s big left hook sent Okolie in the fourth inning and another knockdown in the 10th.p and 11p it didn’t look that clean (Okolie’s trainer SugarHill felt it was the only legitimate knockdown, and Okolie admitted it was a good shot), especially the second, and points were taken from Okolie in rounds five and seven.
Even though the challenger only had to stay on his feet for the last two or three rounds, his tactics did not change and he allowed Okolie moments of success as the champion hit big shots, but was unable to get the inspired Billam-Smith to crumble up front with his fans.
“As long as I lose convincingly and give it my all, I feel good,” said Okolie later, who said he wanted to go straight to the rematch.
“He did a lot of good things there. Perhaps I was a little too uptight letting my shots go. When I was there forcing him, it wasn’t there. I’m not that nervous, I’ll come again. I will fight for the rematch for sure.”
Hill said that Okolie sometimes stifled his work and did not allow phase two to freely attack when he asked what they could work on.
Okolie praised Billam-Smith’s inner strength and the cutting hooks he landed with.
“For me, it’s just another step,” said Okolie, who said he was inspired by the journey of Lennox Lewis, who avenged two defeats in his professional career. Admittedly, Okolie spoke at the press conference and called the experience “good character building.”