Date, start time and venue
This 12-round contest will take place on Saturday, May 27 at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium. The undercard will start at 7pm, with the main event ring walks scheduled for 10pm, live on Sky Sports.
Okolie vs Billam-Smith undercard
Sam Eggington vs Joe Pigford
Lee Cutler vs Stanley Stannard
Karriss Artingstall vs Jade Taylor
Mace Ruegg vs Dean Dodge
Lewis Edmondson vs Vladimir Belujsky
Tommy Welch vs TBA
Michael McKinson vs TBA
Lawrence Okolie to beat Chris Billam-Smith on points
Fight to go over ten rounds
Chris Billam-Smith and Lawrence Okolie will need no introduction when they meet on the south coast this weekend.
The pair trained together at Shane McGuigan's gym, but Okolie’s move to partner up with SugarHill Steward has paved the way for these old pals to meet in Billam-Smith’s home town.
Okolie’s belt at 200lbs is on the line and he will turn up as the firm favourite in his fourth consecutive title defence.
‘The Sauce’ has a 19-0 record with 14 KOs, but he has been unable to get his last two opponents out of there after unanimous points wins over David Light and Michal Cieslak. The former of which was only two months ago.
Okolie, 30, got the job done, but the cards were not a true reflection of the Brit’s dominance. Cards of 116-112 and 117-110 looked generous for Light, with the 119-108 scorecard about right.
Okolie was the clear winner, but it was far from a convincing display in a scrappy contest which Okolie never really looked fluent in. Many were expecting an early finish, but Light, who later suffered a mild stroke, was durable and stuck to his task.
The crowd were left booing after Okolie produced an underwhelming performance on his return after a year out of the ring. He will need to sharpen up against Billam-Smith, but under Steward it would be no surprise if Okolie shows a big improvement.
Steward afterwards vowed to “push harder” with his man and make him stronger and “more solid”. The pair have only worked together since the turn of the year and it will be interesting to see if Steward has worked on Okolie’s finishing, because the American is famed for getting his fighters to increase their knockout victories.
Okolie's positioning, efficiency and decision-making have all been traits that Steward has been working on and a quick return to the ring against such a tough opponent as Billam-Smith can only be applauded.
Billam-Smith (17-1) with 12 knockouts has just one blot on his professional career. That was a split-decison loss to Richard Riakporhe in 2019. But, looking back, that was no disgrace when you consider Riakporhe’s (16-0) standing and Billam-Smith has improved vastly since then.
‘The Gentleman’ is two years older than Okolie at 32 and has developed into a solid boxer under McGuigan. In fact he is as much an orthodox fighter as Okolie is unorthodox, which could make for a good fight stylistically.
He will be cheered on by 15,000 supporters on Saturday night and he will need that support going in as the 3/1 outsider.
Okolie is an awkward customer and far from conventional in the angles he attacks from, but Billam-Smith has come through two tough fights in the last six months, both at Bournemouth’s International Centre.
Billam-Smith brutally finished the dangerous Kosovan Armend Xhoxhaj in round five in December, but not before he was wobbled in round two.
Xhoxhaj, who had lost just twice previously, landed a huge overhand right, which saw Billam-Smith’s legs wobble, the Brit afforded a smile, but he was hurt. Xhoxhaj went after the finish, but Billam-Smith managed to hang in there and survive the round.
Then when he got his jab going in round five he caught Xhoxhaj with an uppercut and left hook before a right hook saw his opponent brutally knocked out. He was out before he hit the canvas and needed medical attention, but he finally got to his feet. It was an impressive stoppage and showed Billam-Smith’s powers of recovery.
Billam-Smith tear up
While in his fight previous to that he was involved in a real tear-up with Isaac Chamberlain, who was due to face Mikael Lawal on the undercard before the latter pulled out through injury.
That fight was an explosive contest which caught fire in round two with both boxers hurt. But Billam-Smith, who was a decent amateur, showed his granite chin and aggressive style to edge home on the cards. All three judges scored the contest 117-111 in favour of Billam-Smith.
What Billam-Smith does have in his favour is that he’s had two really tough tune-up fights, in which he has proved his durability. Okolie, meanwhile, may just be undercooked having only fought Light since beating Michal Cieslak in February 2022.
That could well make the fight a really close contest and both look destined to see the final bell. Okolie could well prove too awkward for Billam-Smith to land any power shots cleanly and the home hope has shown he can ride big shots.
Okolie’s 4-0 record in world-title bouts could be crucial though and his knowhow might just be enough to get the vote on the cards.
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