FIGHT SPORTS Exclusive: Chris Billam-Smith On His Richard Riakporhe Rematch

Chris Billam-Smith takes on Richard Riakporhe in a defense of his WBO Cruiserweight Title this Saturday live on FIGHT SPORTS, subject to certain territories. 

The fight is a rerun of their 2019 clash. Riakporhe came out victorious in a split decision to remain undefeated and give Billam-Smith his first career loss. The decision could have gone either way, but since then, Billam-Smith has had a better career. Billam-Smith has won ten on the bounce, which took him to his first world title by beating Lawrence Okolie last year.

It was a huge milestone to beat his former sparring partner, as Billam-Smith was seen as a massive underdog. A successful defense followed against Mateusz Masternak in his last fight. However, the performance left little to be desired. Billam-Smith was being outboxed before Masternak retired with a rib injury. 

Riakporhe’s record is 17-0, with 13 stoppages. He has knocked out his last five opponents, as he will fancy his chances again. Riakporhe’s last fight was a knockout victory against Dylan Bregeon. Riakporhe is fighting in front of his fans at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park football stadium. Much like Billam-Smith who won his world title at Bournemouth Football Club’s stadium against Okolie, Riakporhe will hope to do the same. FIGHT SPORTS caught up with Billam-Smith ahead of his fight. 

Interview

Interviewer: What will be the biggest difference in fighting Richard this time around?

Chris: “I think for me, just my development as an athlete and as a fighter, you know, the experience I’ve had since that’s my first 50-50, fight…I watched it back, and I looked a boy in there compared to how I look now in the ring. So that is, yeah, huge, huge difference. But all the experience I’ve had since then, had 10 fights since then, loads of 12 rounders and, yeah, just the development I’ve had, the confidence, and just the experience has been invaluable.”

Interviewer: And how important is it for you to get revenge?

Chris: “Yeah, I mean, it’s important, important to me. You know, any athlete in any sport that loses wants to, wants to get one back, right? You see in the NBA, you know, teams getting beat in the playoffs one year, they use that as fuel for the next year…But I think more so in boxing than any other sport is people want to avenge their losses. So it’s a great opportunity for me to do that.”

Interviewer: How are you keeping your emotions in check while chasing this revenge?

Chris: “It’s just motivation. Really, the revenge aspect, I’m very good at focusing on the task at hand and finite emotions don’t come into it. It’s just about doing, doing the job, following the game plan and getting the job done.”

Interviewer: And why do you feel you will get the job done this time around?

Chris: “I think because the way I’ve developed since the first fight…The work I’ve put in over the years…So not only do I think I can beat Richard, I believe I can beat anyone.”

Interviewer: How tough is the mental aspect of your training camp?

Chris: “I think the mental aspect of boxing is the most important. I think you can you see fighters that are physically talented and have everything, but the mentality side is the toughest part, and it’s probably my best attribute…You just block out all the noise and then focus on the task at hand. But yeah, the mentality side is always the hardest. You always have up and down days. We’re only human at the end of the day.”

Interviewer: Do you have any fight night superstitions at all?

Chris: “No, not really just warm up routine. That’s about it. No, no. I put my my wedding ring on. I tie that to my boots. But I do that every training session, mainly because I know I’ve got to take my boots off so I know I lose it. It’s probably the only thing that I would definitely make sure that I do. But it’s not necessarily superstition. It’s just, so I don’t lose my wedding ring.”

Interviewer: What’s the difference for you in fighting in a stadium as opposed to, like, say, in an arena?

Chris: “I won my world title in a football stadium back home in Bournemouth, and then, obviously, it’s time to fight in another football stadium. And yes, it’s different, but it’s, it’s an honour for me. I’m a football fan..Once upon a time, I was wanting to play in the Premier League, but wasn’t quite good enough. I’m going to be fighting at my second Premier League football stadium. So it’s a real honour for me, and something that, yeah, I’m going to, you know, really relish that, that opportunity. And obviously, stadium’s got so many more more people than, you know, most arenas. So, yeah, so it’s amazing. It creates a great atmosphere.”

Interviewer: And how important was it for you to make sure a percentage of every ticket sold went towards the Palace of Light Foundation?

Chris: “I mean, to be fair, that was, that was Richard side of things. But I’m really glad that, you know, something like that is, is in place. I donate, usually some money from my five purses to my own charity, which I’m an ambassador for…If you with events like this, you’ve got to do more than just sell tickets and make money. You’ve got to try and make a difference when there’s such a big event. And if you know, with it being at Crystal Palace, obviously, with that foundation there, it’s great.”

Interviewer: Are there any boxers first that you emulate your style around?

Chris: “Not necessarily, I take bits of of all different boxers, but you’ve got also be yourself. You know, so many people have tried to be Floyd Mayweather and failed. You’ve got to know your own strengths and weaknesses and do that. You know, I’m a fan of many fighters. George Groves is one of my favourite fighters, but I wouldn’t say we box very similar. You know, we’ve got quite different but Andre Ward, this stuff that he does, which I love watching, you know, that he used to do in his career, and he adapted really well in all his fights. And I think the big factor is being able to adapt to each opponent.”

Interviewer: Are there any athletes that you learn from that aren’t boxers?

Chris: “And, yeah, there’s, you know, LeBron James. I’m a fan of him, the way he sort of looks after himself, you know, outside of doing all the recovery stuff and all those sort of things, there’s Roger Federer, the way he carries himself. Such a class act. Justine, there’s a documentary coming out on him. A lot of inspiration from a lot of great athletes, you know, like I said, Roger Federer, but also Serena Williams, what she did in in tennis, yeah. Then, you know, obviously, I’ve always been inspired by footballers as well, because that was always my sport…like Frank Lampard. I remember he was a footballer for Chelsea back in the day and England, and I read his autobiography and his his work ethic and everything really resonated with me and something that I’ve sort of lived by. So yes, there’s plenty of phenomenal athletes, and you just try and learn from as many people as you can.”

Interviewer: One year from now, where do you want to be in the sport?

Chris: “Politics can get in the way of timings of fights and stuff. But yeah, I want to have at least, at least two bouts a year from now.”

Interviewer: And do you see yourself as a lifetime cruiserweight, or will you think you’re about maybe moving up to heavyweight at some point?

Chris: “I think I’ll probably stay at cruiserweight realistically. The heavyweights now are giants, and you have to be generational talent like Usyk, I think, to be able to be able to go up and deal with those boys so and, you know, I’m, no Usyk…I’ve grown into the weight I was naturally a cruiserweight…Now I feel really comfortable.”

Where To Watch Info

You can watch the fight in the following territories

Japan

Fiji/Pacific Islands – Kiribati, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Pitcairn Islands, Guam, Wallis and Futuna, Nauru, Soloman Islands, Niue, New Zealand, Samoa, Tokelau, Philippines, Indonesia, Northern Mariana Islands, Vanuatu, Palau, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, American Somoa

Cambodia

Vietnam

Spain

Portugal

France

Nordic/Baltic – Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden 

Greece/Cyprus

Romania

Ex-Yugoslavia – Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia

MENA  – Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Morocco, Djibouti, Western Sahara, Yemen, Syria, Israel, Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Palestine, Mauritania, Jordan, Iran, Bahrain, Oman, Tunisia, Libya, Sudan

Albania

Israel

Belgium (Non-exclusive)

Caribbean (Non-exclusive) – Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Domican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Netherlands Antilles, Turks and Caicos, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands

Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde (Non-exclusive)

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