In a wild brawl in his hometown Saturday night Cruiserweight Chris Billam-Smith realized the dream of becoming a world champion as he out-fought previously unbeaten WBO title holder Lawrence Okolie for a 12-round decision win.
Billam-Smith victory in front of sellout stadium crowd of over 15,000 in his hometown capped off the Boxxer Promotions/Sky Sports card in Bournemouth, England. This as the hometown hero was the fighter most in control from the fourth round on.
Okolie dominating early action landing long right hands, but also repeatedly smothering Billiam-Smith with clinches to prevent in follow up punches. He was repeatedly warned in the second and third rounds for holding and hitting the challenger.
But, then came the fourth, as the challenger scored a left hook that knocked down of the champion and that had Okolie in serious trouble in the final minute of the frame. Billam-Smith, now 18-1, was able to land cleanly a couple of times, but Okolie did a sufficient job of holding and surviving to hear the bell.
Speaking of holding, that became a much bigger issue as the fight wore on with Okolie, now 19-1, repeatedly being warned and on two different occasions having a point taken away by referee Marcus McDonald for too much clutching. Okolie seemed to get control of the fight back in the 7th and 8th rounds, but then, Billam-Smith scored heavily again with a good left and right in the 9th round.
Entering the championship rounds Billam-Smith scored a second questionable knockdown in the 10th, when his punch with a stumbling Okolie seemed to only glance off of him. Nonetheless, McDonald did officially rule it a knock down and counted over the champion for the mandatory eight count.
In the 11th round the challenger scored a more impressive knockdown with Okolie swinging wildly and stumbling again, he caught Okolie with a short right and then a left and the champion was down on all fours.
At that point it was obvious with the knockdowns ruled and with the two points taken off for holding that Billam-Smith had basically won the fight. Amazingly though, one judge still had the fight 112-112 on his scorecard. However, that judge was overruled by the other two decisively going for Billam-Smith by 116-107 and 115-108.
“This is perfect. There’s nothing more. And, it’s against a great champion like Lawrence,” Billam Smith said in the ring to Sky Sports.
“He’s given me very tough, hard hard rounds. But, I believe I did enough to win it….I was sick in bed all week. I didn’t eat from Tuesday through Thursday….I mean it was easy making weight… I just want to dedicate this to my mom, who has breast cancer. Mom, this is for you.”
I’ve pictured me dropping down for that left hook (that dropped Okolie in the fourth) all week, all camp. It was just like I envisioned it…. I have no words. It has not sunk in”
Okolie was making the fourth defense of his WBO title won by sixth round KO over Krzysztof Glowacki in March 2021. He had just fought eight weeks earlier in a dull 12 round decision win over David Light in March. That was his first fight in over a year due to promotional issues.
Billam-Smith had been as much as a four to one underdog entering the bout against Okolie. The two have been friends throughout their boxing careers and have spared together repeatedly in training camps for other fights. But, on Saturday night Billam Smith got the better of the now, former WBO champ in this one.
There is an automatic rematch clause and the former Champion indicated post-fight he will exercise it and we will likely see these two rematch before the end of 2023.
But, on this night in his hometown Chris Billam-Smith was the better man in becoming a world champion in the cruiserweight division