Home Boxing News Chris Billam-Smith targeting other cruiserweight champions after revenge win over Richard Riakporhe

Chris Billam-Smith targeting other cruiserweight champions after revenge win over Richard Riakporhe

Chris Billam-Smith. Photo credit: Getty Images

Trainer Shane McGuigan has laid out his roadmap to undisputed for his boxer Chris Billam-Smith 20-1 (13).

The WBO cruiserweight champion retained his belt for the second time with a scrappy unanimous decision win over Richard Riakporhe 17-1 (13) at Selhurst Park Football Ground in Crystal Palace, England on Saturday night. The bout was a rematch of their July 2019 contest that Riakporhe won via split decision.

This time around, the 33-year-old Billam-Smith of Bournemouth was able to get the better of the action for much of the bout, not allowing the strangely passive Londoner to get set for his power punches. In the end Riakporhe, 34, never really got going, with Billam-Smith winning by scores of 116-111 and 115-112.

Tactically, it was a good performance from Billam-Smith, but it wasn’t exactly compelling viewing.

McGuigan was nevertheless pleased with the result and said after they fight they would chase unification bouts.

In an ideal world, McGuigan would have Billam-Smith face WBA titleholder Gilberto Ramirez 46-1 (30) next in the United States, while WBC beltholder Noel Mikaelian 27-2 (12) could face Ring Magazine and IBF champion Jai Opetaia 25-0 (19).

The winners could then pair up next year in the northern summer.

“We’ve got to go for a unified world title. I would love that. I’d like that against Ramirez or Noel Mikaelian, the WBC champion, and then we’d look to box Opetaia early next summer. That’s the dream fight. Why wouldn’t we want to do that for an undisputed [title]?” McGuigan said.

“Challenges is the most important thing. You can see when he’s up against it – Lawrence Okolie, Richard Riakporhe, two guys the bookies had clear favourites – he goes and does the business. He rises to the occasion.

“Some fighters are fantastic in the gym – got every skill every world – and other fighters can go and perform and execute out there when it really matters, and that’s Chris Billam-Smith. He strives for minor percentages and over time, it’s always accumulated.”

McGuigan added: “He’s been unbelievable to work with. As a coach you have to be able to add value to the fighter and you also have to be able to maximise them.

“I want to be able to get to the end of Chris Billam-Smith’s career and say, ‘There’s not one extra per cent left in you’. Even though he’d won a world title, there was still more in him.

“At the top level, physically, he’s there, but how you strategically manage your energy throughout the fight, and that confidence and belief that you’ve got – that’s where you get your extra percentages.

“Two stadium fights – that’s his third world-title fight. It’s phenomenal and that’s where you get that confidence and that experience, and I’m incredibly proud of him.

“You have to be able to have an athlete that’s willing to go above and beyond and look for percentages here and there and that’s exactly what he’s done.

“The two of us have been working together. We’re always having great conversations; we’re always analysing things. There’s no finger pointing.”

In his last title defence in December, Billam-Smith had a tough fight on his hands against Polish veteran Matuesz Masternak 48-6 (32), who he eventually defeated by eighth-round stoppage.

Billam-Smith cut over the left eye in that contest and Masternak was leading on two of the cards and even on the third when he retired with a rib injury.

“He had a loss against Riakporhe,” McGuigan said. “We went back and we just built on it and even on that last performance, he had a slightly bad performance, but we both went back and we both stripped it all down and said, ‘How do we need to get better?’ and that’s exactly what he went and did.

“It was 10 times the performance of [that against] Masternak.”