Chris Billam-Smith, the WBO cruiserweight world champion, is no stranger to thrilling fights.
His battles with Isaac Chamberlain and Armend Xhoxhaj were two of the best contests of last year and he thinks his clash with Mateusz Masternak on Sunday, December 10 will top anything he’s done so far.
In fact, he believes it will top anything seen before in his weight class.
“It makes stylistically for potentially one of the best fights the cruiserweight division has ever seen and that’s saying something,” Billam-Smith told Sky Sports. “Because the way we both fight is exciting.
“We’re very similar. We’re both tough. Put our shots together well. We can both punch. We’ve got good chins.
“He’s one of the most experienced fighters maybe I’ll ever face because he’s boxed every style. He’s boxed at such a high level,” Billam-Smith explained.
“He’s had more knockouts than I’ve had fights. It’s a hugely dangerous fight. But I’m a world champion. I’ve got to go in there with that confidence and belief, which I always have, and go and do what I do and fight my fight.”
Billam-Smith therefore expects this fight with Masternak at the Bournemouth International Centre, live on Sky Sports, to be more demanding than his world title-winning effort against Lawrence Okolie at the Vitality Stadium last time out.
“For me it’s my toughest test,” the champion said. “I’m expecting that and I’m preparing for that because that’s the type of fighter he is. You prepare for anything less than that against Masternak, you’re doing him an injustice, you’re doing yourself an injustice.”
Billam-Smith is a target, because other fighters see him as a champion who could be vulnerable. But the 33-year-old promises he is far harder to defeat than some might think.
“I’m not a slickster. I’m no Floyd Mayweather. But what I do is very, very effective and underrated,” he said.
He makes his first defence against Masternak. It’s a fight Billam-Smith is highly motivated to win, not just because it is another return to his hometown.
“I’m scared of being a flash in the pan. I don’t want to be that one-hit wonder,” he said. “I want to cement my stature as a world champion and eventually move on to unifications and huge fights.”
Okolie seeking revenge
Billam-Smith also reckons he could make a rematch with Okolie exciting. Their first fight was marred by clinching but illuminated by the sequence of knockdowns Billam-Smith scored over the course of 12 rounds.
“I expect Lawrence to be a lot better second time round. I expect him to make improvements. That’s the sort of man he is. He goes away and he works on things and I expect him to come back with more motivation,” the new champion said.
Okolie, he believes, will change his style and tidy up his work. “Now he has been beaten he has to do that. He never lost before so he got away with it. He used to say in the gym: ‘It doesn’t matter, I’m still winning,'” Billam-Smith said.
“He needs to change his style,” the Bournemouth man continued. “I expect him to. It will make the second fight more intriguing.”
Billam-Smith is adamant that he would be more dangerous too. For a start, he won’t be afflicted by a stomach bug, as he was in their first fight. “I can see things I can do better in there as well. Then at the time I was aware of not wanting to waste any energy levels because I knew I wasn’t really 100 per cent,” he said.
“That’ll be a fight that will happen next year.”
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