AFTER weeks of waiting, it was confirmed today that Chris Billam-Smith will defend his WBO Cruiserweight title against mandatory challenger Richard Riakporhe this summer.

The date is set for June 15 outdoors at Selhurst Park – the home of Riakporhe’s favourite football team Crystal Palace FC – on a Boxxer promotion to be broascast live on Sky Sports. Not only will Billam-Smith, 19-1 (13), be defending his belt for a second time he also gets the chance to exact revenge on Riakporhe, 17-0 (13), having lost to the Londoner in July 2019.

Five years ago, the pair fought on the undercard of Dillian Whyte vs. Oscar Rivas at the O2 Arena in London. Billam-Smith and Riakporhe went the 10-round distance for a minor WBA strap, but it was the latter who got the nod on a split decision with judges Leszek Jankowiak and Salvador Silva scoring it 95-94 and 97-92 for Riakporhe while Terry O’Connor returned a card of 96-93 for Billam-Smith. Bob Williams was the referee on the night.

Each fighter has remained undefeated since then. Billam-Smith has racked up 10 wins on the spin against the likes of Tommy McCarthy (on two occasions), Isaac Chamberlain and most memorably his world title win when he dethroned Lawrence Okolie 11 months ago.

Billam-Smith gained home advantage on the night when he tackled his former gym-mate at the Vitality Stadium the home of Bournemouth AFC – who count “The Gentleman” as one of their biggest fans. The fight itself was forgettable but the challenger got the better of Okolie over the distance, winning a majority decision. His first defence, in December, was a tricky affair against Polish veteran Mateusz Masternak who kept the champion honest until he retired in the eighth round with a rib injury.

Riakporhe’s path since July 2019 has consisted of seven fights and seven wins against contenders such as Jack Massey, Olanrewaju Duradola, Deion Jumah and Fabio Turchi. Since teaming up with Ben Shalom and Boxxer the 34-year-old has showcased his brutal power punching finishing his last five fights inside the distance.

It was reported last month that terms had been agreed for the Billam-Smith vs. Riakporhe sequel but promoter Ben Shalom had hoped to announce it sooner rather than later. However, the venue had been something of a sticking point.

Returning to the Vitality Stadium had been ruled out and on March 31 Billam-Smith explained to Boxing News – having just watched Fabio Wardley and Frazer Clarke produce a modern heavyweight classic – why he wanted a return to the O2 Arena once again to face Riakporhe.

“I want to do it here [the O2 Arena]. This is the place of the first fight. It makes sense, the history is there. We can’t do AFC Bournemouth, which is a shame. The time of year, they can’t do the pitch. But let’s do it back here. What a venue it is for a big event. It’ll be another big event like it was tonight.”

Billam-Smith, who has a sizeable fan base in Bournemouth to rely on, believes Riakporhe isn’t a ticket seller like he is. On June 15 we get to see how popular the challenger is having secured the biggest fight of his career on his own patch.


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