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Billam-Smith vs. Riakporhe Return Could Co-Headline Yarde-Buatsi Bill

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WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith is having to be patient.

Having won his title by dropping and outpointing Lawrence Okolie in his hometown of Bournemouth last May, Billam-Smith defended his crown for the first time against Mateusz Masternak, stopping the Polish challenger in front of his South Coast fans in December.

It was revealed several weeks ago that Billam-Smith’s next fight would be against Richard Riakporhe, but time has gone on and there is still no date or venue.

Both cruiserweights are promoted by Boxxer.

Riakporhe is 17-0 (13 KOs) while Billam-Smith is 19-1 (13 KOs). The two fought back in the O2 Arena in London back in July 2019 with Riakporhe winning a split decision over 10 rounds. 

It always seemed likely they would box again, but when and where remains to be seen, although sources have said that Selhurst Park [Crystal Palace’s football stadium] and the O2 are both in the running, although officials have not completely ruled out going to Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium again, where Billam-Smith defeated Okolie, although that venue is looking unlikely.  

Billam-Smith is trained by Shane McGuigan, who last weekend won the Trainer of the Year Award from the British Boxing Board of Control, almost eight years on from winning it the first time. 

But McGuigan admitted Billam-Smith was waiting on the proposed light heavyweight clash between Londoners Joshua Buatsi and Anthony Yarde announcement before anything could be finalised for Billam-Smith-Riakporhe II.

“We are waiting on Buatsi vs. Yarde,” said McGuigan. “If it was going to be on [the] Buatsi-Yarde [bill], it would be a co-headline, but we’re sitting and waiting and we’re getting things pushed back a week and another two weeks, so we’re putting our foot down and saying, ‘This is the latest date,’ and it might mean that Chris is headlining and Buatsi and Yarde has to get pushed to another date, so it’s not really our problem. 

“The most important thing is keeping momentum and keeping his [Billam-Smith’s] career going forward. I don’t want him to get stale in the gym. He’s been in the gym a while, so we will have a couple of deloading weeks, then we will ramp it up again.”

Billam-Smith is a diligent professional who stays in shape and works on himself as an athlete. The champion’s ongoing search for personal development and growth are what appealed to the trainer when he linked up with McGuigan several years ago.

“He’s also always within a certain percentage of his weight, which is great, and that means we’re always there and thereabouts, in striking distance of six weeks or less than six weeks, like we had against Isaac Chamberlain,” McGuigan added. “That just shows that keeping and holding form and holding discipline when you’re just ticking over is really important.”

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