Chris Billam-Smith defends his European and Commonwealth Cruiserweight titles in a thunderous fight against Isaac Chamberlain in his hometown of Bournemouth on Saturday.
When Billam-Smith entered the Bournemouth International Centre, the roar from the crowd was simply deafening. As pyrotechnics and the stage erupted, the champion solemnly marched to the ring.
He began with hard jabs, digging through Chamberlain’s guard. Those shots tore through London and Balaam-Smith supported them with his cross. He pressured Chamberlain into the ropes and worked him over.
Chamberlain had to open up with left hooks to try to get a response, firing back under pressure. But Balaam-Smith finished the first round with a spontaneous smile on his face.
Billam-Smith carried that momentum into the second round. As Chamberlain lands a nice left hook to the body, Balaam-Smith lands a left hook to his head. Chamberlain goes off the ropes and Balaam-Smith catches him with a sudden strike and forces him back. But before the end of the round, the champion was boring Chamberlain into the ropes again.
They still battled in the third, but it was Billam-Smith who was able to survive with strong left hooks and punches, all of which sapped Chamberlain’s energy.
In the fifth round, he put Chamberlain on the back foot until he was able to hold the ground. The Londoner managed to sneak past on the right and Bilam-Smith finished the lap looking tired.
Chamberlain unleashed a left hook as Billam-Smith rumbled forward in the seventh. Encouraged, he attacked with several headshots. A right uppercut whips his head past Balaam-Smith’s defenders. Chamberlain’s left eye was swollen shut. He had absorbed the punishing shots but was taking heart even as his left eye began to close.
In the eighth, Chamberlain landed an excellent right cross and finished the round trading blows.
The conflict is a fierce physical battle. Throughout Billam-Smith looked to muscle his way forward but Chamberlain’s confidence grew as he countered his power punches and found space to work. He was able to back Balaam-Smith into the ropes or trap him in the corner.
But Billam-Smith continued to fire on the trunk and in the 10th round he landed full-body punches to get the crowd on their feet.
Both men struggled to make it through the final two rounds. A tired Balaam-Smith continued to walk inside. But he’s still able to unleash thunderous punches, racking the ribs and then a three-punch crack to the head. He first straightened up from his stool for the last round and raised his arms to the crowd.
Both worked hard, in search of a grand finish. Balaam-Smith shakes Chamberlain’s head with a hook and then comes off the ropes and lands a right on Chamberlain’s jaw.
But Chamberlain fought back and took Balaam-Smith to the ropes, swinging a left hook that sent both men reeling heavily in the final seconds before the final bell ended their fight.
The decision was unanimous, with all three judges giving Billam-Smith the win 117-111.
“The angle was unbelievable,” said the defending champion. “They always knew the right thing to say.
“What an incredible fight. Isaac is a fighter, I know he is.
“I knew when to just go away and go again and give him a little success, and then I took him and he broke his heart.”
That losing effort came in Chamberlain’s first 12-round fight. “It wasn’t my night. A lot of ring-rust. I haven’t done 12 laps before. But I’ll be back in the gym as soon as possible,” he said.
“This is my first 12-rounder, so I’ll be back.”
He’ll be back, and he’ll want a rematch. “100 percent,” Chamberlain said.
Nelson: Contender of the Year
Johnny Nelson said the Fast Cruiserweight Classic was a competitive fight of the year.
“This has got to be the fight of the year so far because of what these guys have shown with pure heart and determination,” Nelson said.
“Chris Billam-Smith worked out a game plan. He went out of his way to fight. So when you go in there, if you’re not smart and experienced enough to get out of that mindset and get in the box instead of hurling it, it’s very difficult to do.
“And Chris is a tough, tough cookie. I’ve seen Isaac dig deep in fights like this before, until the end. He showed a lot of heart and spirit, but his inactivity just didn’t work for him.
“Chris’ tactics worked really well for him, but what a fight. The crowd on their feet. It was exhausting to watch!”
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