On May 27 at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, world champion Lawrence Okolie will face Chris Billam-Smith.
As the WBO cruiserweight champion, Okolie will enter the hostile territory and defend his championship in Billam-Smith’s hometown, where they formerly shared a gym.
At Shane McGuigan’s gym, the two trained together, and now that Okolie is working with new coach SugarHill Steward, a matchup with highly regarded Billam-Smith is doable.
Billam-Smith earlier stated that he will be competing at the Vitality Stadium in late May, and he has since promised to win the world championship at home.
“Fighting for a world title against someone I know very well is a really exciting prospect,” he remarked. “I’m thrilled to be competing at my favourite AFC Bournemouth stadium in front of my incredible supporters. I’ll make up for it on May 27 by taking home a world championship.”
When David Light was defeated by Okolie in Manchester last month, it was the Londoner’s most recent championship defence. He will have little time to rest before returning to training camp, but the cruiserweight champion relished the challenge.
He declared, “I’m thrilled and ready to go. I recently completed a successful defence in which I defeated a strong opponent who was a national champion in his native country in all 12 rounds.
Weeks later, I’ll be facing Chris Billam-Smith, a former European champion and current Commonwealth champion, who is a top-10-ranked fighter and a current contender for the world title.
Not many fighters successfully defend against back-to-back attacks in such a little period of time. Few people choose to engage in the most difficult conflicts that are accessible, but I do. Chris, I love you, but I have to win this one with the KO.”
Billam-Smith has quickly established a reputation as one of Britain’s most thrilling fighters. He has won cruiserweight championships in the UK, Commonwealth, and Europe. In 2022, with a passionate Bournemouth crowd cheering him on, he knocked out Armend Xhoxhaj and defeated Isaac Chamberlain in a fight that was a candidate for Fight of the Year.
That prepared him for a world championship challenge, so when Okolie, who had recovered quickly from his previous fight, approached him with the prospect of a “dream night” in his hometown, Billam-Smith did not think twice. Okolie is a powerful cruiserweight with a long reach and a heavy-handed punch, but Billam-Smith simply said, “Let’s do this.”
However, Billam-Smith has proven in the past how efficient he can be when attacking opponents from the inside, and with trainer McGuigan at his side, he perhaps has the person best prepared to come up with a strategy to beat Okolie.
For the British cruiserweight championship on May 27’s undercard, Chamberlain will take on the undefeated Mikael Lawal.