The cruiserweight picture is starting to look a little clearer with the announcement today in London at a BOXXER press conference of Lawrence Okolie defending his WBO world title against compatriot Chris Billam-Smith in the latter’s home town of Bournemouth, England on May 27.
Smith, known as ‘The Gentleman’ is one of a triumvirate of world ranked 200 pounders based in the UK. He is joined by the only man to beat him, Richard Riakporhe (16-0, 12 KO’s), who waits in the wings for the victor, or an alternative title shot.
Top man, as recognised in the division, is New Zealander Jai Opetaia (22-0, 17 KO’s). This by virtue of beating Latvian Mairis Briedis late last year and now the man with most of the titles, also considered by The Ring magazine as their champion.
‘Sauce’ Okolie (19-0, 14 KO’s) is a 2016 Team GB Olympian and has a 19-0, 14 KO record as a pro. He arrives quickly off a recent WBO title defence in Manchester against David Light which was heavily criticised for it’s lack of action. Okolie did though win a convincing unanimous decision and this will be an early chance for him to get everyone back on board.
Billam-Smith (17-1-0, 12 KO’s) recently fought in December 2022 in a comfortable home win and also brings the British and Commonwealth titles to the ring.
The fight will take place open air at the 15,000 Bournemouth Association Football Club, in a venue aptly named the Vitality Stadium. The pulling power of Billam-Smith will ensure a good turn out and raucous atmosphere. He knows Okolie well and claims to have sparred 300-500 rounds with him. Although they remain close friends; this will be put on hold for domestic bragging rights and a ‘world’ title. It promises to be an excellent contest and event in the UK early summer.