Chris Billam-Smith defeated Isaac Chamberlain in a grueling 12-round battle to defend his European and Commonwealth cruiserweight title in his hometown of Bournemouth on Saturday.
It was a performance and an opportunity that would catapult him to a world title and challenge for a major belt in his next fight.
“100 percent, especially with the opportunities we’ve had here,” said BOXXER promoter Ben Shalom.
New IBF champion and world number one cruiserweight Dean Lonergan, who is the promoter of Jai Opetaya, was in action at the Bournemouth International Center with the intention of matching the winner with the fighter.
“He [Opetaia] Number one in the world, the opportunities ahead are now in mind. I’m really excited for them,” Balaam-Smith said.
“The next fight is always the biggest in this sport,” he told Sky Sports. “Every fight is worth winning and I’m going to get there. Every next fight is the biggest.
“That was the highlight of my life tonight, but there will be better nights ahead.”
It was a terrifying battle that took place in front of the crowd. “That just blew away my expectations. It blew the roof off. It was really loud in there. Honestly, it makes me think about the sensitivity of it,” Balaam-Smith said.
“It was more than I expected.”
Chamberlain may have lost a unanimous decision, but Balaam-Smith acquitted himself under great pressure.
“I’m such a fighter. I fight hard and I can keep it up. Anyone who gets mad at me knows how angry I am. People hate me when I’m angry. They know they have to be on top of it,” Balaam-Smith said.
“It was tough in there, obviously. I had a short camp. I had a baby three weeks before I went into camp, so it was a very short camp. It was five weeks of proper training, six weeks in total. So it was a physical, physical battle.
“But I know I’ve got the engine and I have the mindset to get through it and I know I have a good team around me.”
While the win would propel him to the world stage, there would be options for the loser as well.
“We’ve got Jack Massey, Michael Lawal, Dion Jumah – Lawal is going to fight Jumah for Britain. Chris Billam-Smith: ‘Beating Isaac Chamberlain was pinnacle of career, but next fight’s even bigger’ | Boxing News Next,” Shalom explained.
“A lot of fighting has to be done.”
Riakporhe vs Macabu are targeted.
The cruiserweight division is opening. Richard Riakpore is another British fighter with a shot at a world title. But Balaam-Smith doesn’t block his path to his fight with Opatija. Promoter Ben Shalom has lined up WBC champion Ilunga Makabu for Riakporhe.
“We want to make Makabu fight for Richard Riakporhe and I think we can do it this year,” said Shalom.
“So we think it’s the right fight for Richard. His progress has been incredible.
“He came into boxing late and his development should have come late, but he is improving every fight and his power is unbelievable. We think he will fight Makabu because he has what it takes to be a world champion.
“I think Richard’s dream is to win a world title and then watch the unification with Lawrence Okolie. That’s what he wants. Ultimately, he has heavyweight ambitions. He’s a monster.”
“I think Richard and Lawrence are regarded as two of the best in the local scene and probably the two biggest names outside of Billam-Smith and Chamberlain.
“We will have great opportunities for both.”
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