By Barry Holbrook: George Groves impressed Chris Billiam-Smith (18-1, 12 KOs) with a twelve-round majority victory over WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie (19-1, 14 KOs) last Saturday night at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, England
Like many people, Groves found the 112-112 score given by referee Benjamin Rodriguez “bizarre” and difficult to understand. The other two judges scored it 116-107 and 115-108 for Billiam-Smith.
Whatever chance Okolie had to retain his WBO title, he squandered it, losing in the 4th, 10th and 11th rounds and losing points for excessive clenching in the 5th and 7th rounds.
Billiam-Smith took a lot of hard shots from Okolie and dealt with a bad gash in his left eye.
Okolie was over-holding, especially in the later rounds, and it was obvious he wasn’t comfortable getting hit by Billiam-Smith.
Scorecard 112-112 was weird
“It was a great fight. Respect from both gentlemen. Chris Billiam-Smith rose to the occasion in front of his home crowd at the football stadium, weathered the storm a few times and took a few plays,” said George Groves Boxing Great Britain on Chris Billiam-Smith’s victory over WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie last Saturday.
“He changed the momentum of the fight with that big left hook that knocked Okolie down in the fourth or fifth rounds in the middle rounds and then tried to capitalize on that. Okolie gets attention for holding on, which, you know, is sometimes harsh, but saying he’s guilty and admitting it in the end.
“One of those knockdowns was a bit harsh. I think the latter got caught and then he has a mess with his feet. It ends up falling. Judge Marcus McDonnell did a good job and there is only one winner at this point.
“One of the scorecards, 112-112, was a bit weird. Chris Billiam-Smith won this round where he dropped Okolie for the first time and won the next one and then there were rounds that could have been even.
Okolie tried to collect himself
“Ultimately amazing also from Okolie. Towards the end he pushed hard, knowing he needed a stoppage. Who knows how close he was? He landed some powerful hits on Billiam-Smith, but he survived it, and finally some lovely words from both guys.
“That Lawrence Okolie lost his world title and was so modest in his speech after that shows appreciation for this man. He definitely has a bright future. I would love to see that fight again, if it comes up again it will be a fight I can’t wait to see.
(Richard) Riakporhe is knocking on the door, so Billiam-Smith has two options for a rematch. Maybe Okolie again. It may be Riakporhe, or it may go a different way.
“I think his eye looks bad so he’ll need to rest before he comes back. He (Riakporhe) is a big cruiser.
“There are cruiserweights and big cruiserweights. Riakporhe is a huge cruiser. Okolie is a huge cruiser. These guys may only be here for a while before they start thinking heavyweight.
“Billiam-Smith needs to enjoy the moment and let the dust settle for as long as possible. He will enjoy time with his family and will return to the grind.
“I told Chris before the fight, ‘It’s a mental fight for you, mate. Don’t get caught without shots. Don’t give away any free shots. The same goes for everyone. He’s always in those fights where he doesn’t want to shoot at the highest level.
“He has this style, this high hand, and sometimes he looks like he could switch off. So to his credit, he was focused on the laser while walking around the ring. Today he was a different type of fighter. It was a tough job against a strong physical guy in Lawrence Okolie who can hit ridiculously hard.
“You have to give him credit, he did a fantastic job and was blown away by the win of his life,” said Groves of Billiam-Smith.