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Preview: Lawrence Okolie vs Chris Billam-Smith

This Saturday night, May 27, is one to surely make boxing fans worldwide salivate, as three separate world title fights headline three different events across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

As well as Leigh Woods revenge mission against Mauricio Lara for featherweight gold in Manchester, and Michael Conlans tough tilt against Luis Alberto Lopez in Belfast, there is a very intriguing domestic dust up between WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie, and challenger Chris Billam Smith.

The all-English affair will take place at the Vitality Stadium, the football stadium for Billam Smith’s boyhood team AFC Bournemouth, and it will be broadcast live on Sky Sports Action.

Okolie [19-0, 14 KO’s] will be making the fourth defence of the title he won against veteran Polish fighter Krzysztof Glowacki with a stunning knockout in London back in 2021. The former Olympian, nicknamed ‘The Sauce’, has been on a very impressive streak since his debut back in 2017, using his dominating physical attributes for the weight, and his heavy handedness to frustrate and finish his opponents. Okolie has won British, Commonwealth, European and world titles in the 200-pound division, defeating very tricky operators such as Isaac Chamberlain, Wadi Camacho and Yves Ngabu on his way to reaching the top of the cruiserweight mountain. A victory against another fellow Brit in the form of Billam Smith will leave Okolie on the verge of massive unification bouts against the other best operators the cruiserweight division has to offer.

“Against Chris…we’ve had a lot of spars” Okolie said.

“I know what this fight is going to look like. He always has action packed fights with lots of punches exchanged. And actually as much as I like Chris I’m looking forward to being in that type of fight.”

Billam Smith [17-1, 12 KO’s] himself has had quite a similar career trajectory to Okolie. Turning professional in the same year, the Bournemouth man also possesses formidable physical components and notable punching power, and he has himself claimed British, Commonwealth and European honours at cruiserweight. The sole defeat in the career of the 32 year old came at the hands of fellow Englishman Richard Riakporhe back in 2019. He has rebounded very well however, compiling an excellent winning streak since then that includes the likes of Tommy McCarthy on two separate occasions, and former Okolie foe Isaac Chamberlain. Last time out, Billam Smith set himself up for his own world title opportunity by producing a knockout of the year contender against Armend Xhoxhaj back in December. Now, he aims to fulfil his professional dream by finally becoming a world champion, in front of his adoring hometown fans at an open-air stadium show in Bournemouth.

“It’s going to be incredible.” said Billam Smith, regarding his homecoming stadium show at the Vitality.

“So many memories there as a 12 year old, as a season ticket holder for years. I wanted to play for Bournemouth but my feet weren’t as good as my hands so I’ve found another way to make my dreams come true and get on the pitch.”

Billam Smith also harkened back to the days both men spent in the same gym sparring, and believes that experience will be likely to play a role in the encounter between both men.

“I think we’ve sparred probably 300 rounds against each other.” he said.

“They were learning curves for both of us and we learned a lot as we built ourselves to world level fighters, and that’s what makes this such an exciting fight.”


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