By Jake Tiernan: WBO junior heavyweight champion Lawrence Okolie and challenger Chris Billiam-Smith weighed in at 199 pounds on Friday at the weigh-in ahead of their headliner on Saturday May 27 at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium.
Billiam-Smith enters the fray having won his last eight fights since a career lone loss at the hands of Richard Riakporhe in 2019. Chris, 32, recently won against Armend Xhoxhaj, Isaac Chamberlain and Tommy McCarthy.
Billiam-Smith will have a hard time hitting Saturday night as Okolie (19-0, 14 KOss), since working with American coach Sugarhill Steward, has become hit and catch a fighter who leans heavily on his opponents in the way that Tyson Fury has been doing since hiring a trainer.
It’s an ugly style, very unpleasant for the fan, but effective. It’s the retro style that retired heavyweight John Ruiz was famous for.
Until the rules in boxing are changed to prevent fighters from using the hit-and-grab style, we’ll see fighters like Okolie and Fury use it to extend their time at the top.
Lawrence Okolie – £199
Chris Billam-Smith – £199
“I have to be focused for this fight. Chris has really good qualities. So I have to be very careful about what I do in the ring,” said Lawrence Okolie iFL TV about his title defense against Chris Billiam-Smith on Saturday.
“I’m a very defensive player by nature. As long as I’m getting knockouts, I’m going to figure out how to negate someone’s punch, keep them from working, and slow the fight down. Then I hit hard shots and just win rounds.
“For this particular fight, I want to be extremely explosive. I am a man who takes orders well. Let’s hope we don’t see a second round. I’m hoping to finish it in one round, but we’ll take it step by step.
“I was staying fit so that helped. When it comes to making weight, I never allowed myself to balloon too much. That’s why I’m much more athletic and strong at this weight. So I think it’ll pay off on fight night.
“I’ll rehydrate and be ready to go,” said Okolie. “I don’t mean to say the mole is writing things down, but we’re all friends. We all have chats. I don’t think it matters,” Okolie said of a potential mole in the camp.
“I’m just very interested in what I’m going to do during the day. You do a film study of each fighter and see their strengths and weaknesses. The only difference is Chris would feel it before fight night. It doesn’t change the fact that I’m still effective at what I do.
“We’ll find out if they have an amazing strategy they’ve never shown and now they’re going to show it, if Chris starts moving his head in the right direction, or if Chris’ feet suddenly go up for 12 rounds. There are lots of things. We’ll find out soon enough,” Okolie said.