November 23rd has developed a whole new meaning for rising British Cruiserweight contender Chris Billam-Smith.
The 29-year-old, who hails from Bournemouth but trains up in Canterbury at the new base for McGuigan’s Gym alongside trainer Shane McGuigan, is carrying the hopes of a small seaside town on his shoulders.
Yet aspirations of fighting again, let alone winning a title seemed a distant fantasy just a few years ago when Billam-Smith was on the brink of retirement just before turning over.
A serious shoulder injury dating back to the amateurs left the Bournemouth man requiring surgery. However, the former ABA finalist persisted with his dream and has moulded himself with the help of his management team Cyclone Promotions and the support of Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing into a serious threat on the 200lbs division.
Billam-Smith (9-1), a standout amateur was dealt a blow in his quest for a first major professional honour on July 20, when fellow Brit Richard Riakporhe retained his WBA Inter-Continental belt on a split decision.
’The Gentleman’ had been confident of pulling off an upset with the Londoner the bookies favourite heading into the bout. The 10-round contest was fought at a gruelling pace and proved, as expected a genuine clash of styles.
Billam-Smith managed to nullify his opponent’s brutal attacks with his piercing jab, although Riakporhe who has dynamite in his right fist secured the crucial, yet controversial knockdown which edged the fight in his favour.
‘The Gentleman’ may have lost out on the night and tasted defeat for the first time in the paid ranks, but his profile benefitted hugely from being a major draw of a Sky Sports Box Office event. Therefore, when the opportunity arose to face Craig Glover, another domestic contender, Billam-Smith did not think twice and it appears to be a smart move.
The Cruiserweights will battle it out on the undercard of Callum Smith’s WBA ‘super’ Super Middleweight title defence against John Ryder in Liverpool live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
Moreover, there will be added spice with the Commonwealth title on the line; vacated by Billam-Smith’s stablemate Lawrence Okolie following his successful European title challenge against Yves Ngabu last month.
Glover (10-2), who is managed by former WBC Cruiserweight world champion Tony Bellew is on home soil at the M&S Bank Arena, but will be facing his first, real domestic clash.
The 28-year-old was stunned in the same venue in March enduring a second professional defeat against Czech journeyman Vaclav Pejsar, however he will have a point to prove having bounced back with victory at the Liverpool Olympia on points in July.
Billam-Smith though, who undoubtedly won’t be overlooking November 23 has huge aspirations beyond. The boyhood AFC Bournemouth supporter has spoke in-depth over his long-term desire to fight at the Vitality Stadium and victory over Glover will certainly put him on a path towards landing that dream stadium fight.
The Gentleman has not fought in his hometown since defeating Kent Kauppinen last December, amassing four victories at the O2 Academy and should he obtain a huge win in Liverpool a rematch with the winner of the vacant British title clash between Riakporhe and Jack Massey, who beat Billam-Smith in the amateurs remaining highly possible for 2020.
It is a thriving Cruiserweight division, with Ireland’s Tommy McCarthy back in contention following victory over Italian poster-boy Fabio Turchi in Trento last month, whilst Isaac Chamberlain, English champion Deion Jumah and Gallagher’s Gym protege Sam Hyde, who faces the former for the strap on the undercard of Riakporhe-Massey all vying to assert their claim as the number one in the division.