On Saturday (30th), at a rockin’ Bournemouth International Centre on the English south coast, local favourite Chris Billam-Smith successfully defended his European and Commonwealth cruiserweight (200lbs/14st, 4lbs) titles against London’s Isaac Chamberlain over twelve hard fought rounds.
The contest, a contender for British fight of the year, topped an excellent night of action on the BOXXER promotion shown live on Sky Sports in the UK, with the main event also broadcast in the USA.
Billam-Smith (16-1, 11 KO’s) won on all three cards 117-111 but this didn’t tell the full story of the competitiveness of the contest. Chamberlain (14-2, 8 KO’s) from Brixton, London, gave the thick set champion all he could handle and left the ring with his head held high. In a fight that was brutal throughout and captivated the rabid local fanbase The Undisputed scored it 116-112 in the home fighter’s favour.
Both fighters met toe to toe from the opening bell and the champion tried to bull charge his way to an early stoppage. The slick boxing Londoner withstood the early assault using a ramrod jab to set up his own attacks and shared some of the early rounds. Mid-fight it was apparent the contest was going to be a war of attrition, as it ebbed and flowed with each boxer gaining the ascendancy and then retreating into defence. With both fighters visibly tiring due to the relentless pace of the contest they supplemented sorties with periods of rest on the ropes and the exchanges of body attacks were intense. Billam-Smith just put in more work than his adversary over the full distance, seeming to get a second and third wind and covering up when needed.
Despite the fight having no knockdowns and only Chamberlain sustaining a cut late it was an all action contest that’s up there with any recent all British encounters. It certainly brought a continuing impetus and focus to the highly competitive cruiserweight division.
Billam-Smith had to dig deep to retain his titles and moves onto potential British blockbusters against WBO champion Lawrence Okolie or a revenge match against hard hitting Richard Riakporhe, the only man to defeat him.
It was also a night of prospects with Team GB Olympian and Tokyo silver medallist Ben Whittaker making his professional debut at light-heavyweight, fellow Olympian and female Londoner Caroline Dubois having her third contest and, the return of Tokyo bronze medallist Frazer Clarke at heavyweight for his second fight after a long layoff due to a hand injury.
As expected, all the Olympians came through easily with matchmaking befitting the embryo of their professional careers, however, all impressed in so doing.
Pick of the bunch was the entertaining and flashy Whittaker, who having returned from a training camp in the USA with well respected trainer SugarHill Steward, showed an array of confidence and variety that bodes well for a successful and possible box office pro career. Rare it is for a debutant to start with a six rounder and exude the self confidence shown against a solid domestic opponent in Greg O’Neill (6-7-1, 1 KO) who went hell for leather from the opening bell.
From the 25 year old Whittaker we saw multiple bolo punches, looping uppercuts, punching whilst looking the other way and ducking under big counters by the slimmest of margins as he glided around the ring. Apart from a few shots on the referee’s call of break it was as impressive a debut as you will see. He ended the contest emphatically with a jab followed up by a heavy right hand after 21 secs of the second round.
Caroline Dubois (3-0, 2 KO’s) at a mere 21 years old stopped brave but outgunned Happy Daudi on 0:46 in the third and Frazer Clarke bludgeoned 22 stone Ariel Esteban Bracamonte into submission with a brutal left hook after 2:57 of the second round. The 6 foot 6 and nineteen stone Clarke boxed well and refused to get drawn into a slugfest with the totally out of shape Argentinian and the finish was clinical efficiency.
Clarke rises to 2-0 (2 KO’s) and joins the rich talent pool of UK heavyweights backed up with elite amateur experience. At only 30 years old, time is on his side.
Promising welterweight Hassan Azim (4-0, 2 KO’s) had to work hard in an excellent learning fight to overcome tough Jacob Quinn (4-2) winning on the referee’s six round decision 59-55. On another night this would’ve been the fight of the night but such was the talent on offer and the competitiveness and significance of the main event that it featured way down on the card. However, this is well worthy of mention here.
There were also impressive stoppage wins in the last contest of a packed night for big punching Joe Pigford (20-0, 19 KO’s) halting Ghanaian Raphael King after 1:49 of round three to win an eliminator for the Commonwealth super-welterweight title, plus earlier, cruiserweight Mikael Lawal who stopped Crispulo Javier Andino after 1:25 of the second.
Elsewhere, on a Wasserman promotion up in Newcastle, north east England and shown live on Channel 5 in the UK, super-welterweight Josh Kelly (12-1-1, 7 KO’s) continued his positive comeback with an emphatic ten round unanimous decision against Lucas Bastida (18-2-1, 10 KO’s) to win the WBO international title. Returned scores were 99-92, 98-92, 96-95 in favour of the 28 year old from Sunderland. Kelly is now on the cusp of a title fight and has good amateur pedigree to draw from.
The Commonwealth Games continue in Birmingham, England and updates will follow as we approach the final stages.