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Billam-Smith held his title, while Riakporhe recently held it

TWICE now, in the space of 13 months, Chris Billam-Smith has worn the image of a boy on the playground who is angry with his schoolmate, who instead of kicking the ball, is seen picking it up with his hands every time. time comes anywhere near him. Repeatedly reminded that they are playing soccer and not rugby, the boy with the ball then turns around and says, “But in America this that’s how they play football.”

It’s funnier for the guy with the ball in his hands than the guy who wants to kick the ball, no guy is wrong at that point. However, only in one of them is this annoying situation and, in the case of the boxing ring, this world of several gray areas, there is,, it should be pointed out, a clear difference between the boxer who wants to fight and. someone who would like to do something else.

That’s not to say that Richard Riakporhe, who faced Billam-Smith last night (June 15) in Croydon, was reluctant to do exactly what he was paid to do, but the difference in attitudes between the two cruiserweights was almost palpable as a team. the difference between these guys on the field of play is not sure if the ball should be kicked or carried.

Billam-Smith, on the other hand, is and always has been an act; who kicks rather than manages. Of course, if there’s a slight knock on him it’s because he’s obvious – read: predictable – in his desire and willingness to get down to business and have a proper, traditional fight. It is this very concept, which has endeared him to many British boxing fans and had potential opponents licking their lips at the thought of fighting him. Because, with Billam-Smith, you know what you’re getting. Plus, you get what you want.

Or at least that you are used be so. Recently, you see, Billam-Smith has learned that the old saying about two fighters making a to fight he is one who focuses on the truth and not just what a boxer says when he fails to perform well in his prime. He saw this against Lawrence Okolie, from whom he won the WBO cruiserweight title last May, and he saw it all last night when Riakporhe, like Okolie, brought to the ring as much uncertainty as athleticism and as much defiance as strength.

In the last case – that is, about Riakporhe – he was very surprised, but that did not mean that it was a little embarrassing for Billam-Smith and his followers. In fact, because it was a surprise, and because Riakporhe was not expected to waste his way into the fight, the reality of what happened at Selhurst Park made the spectacle somewhat worse than Billam-Smith vs. Okolie in Bournemouth last May. At least that night it was warm.

This, unfortunately, was one of those cruiserweight fights they once told you to avoid. It was largely dominated by Billam-Smith, who remained professional and a long-timer, and only once, in the ninth round, did it threaten to explode and become something more than what it was: a recipe for the eyes. In that round, the ninth, Riakporhe finally came alive. He landed a right hand early in the round, which alerted Billam-Smith’s mouth guard, then landed two more right hands, one with one minute and 30 seconds remaining, both of which caused Billam-Smith. , if not.

In due course, that shot brought back the quiet crowd and their hope was that Riakporhe would build on this little exchange and give them an exciting final three rounds. Riakporhe, however, had other ideas. Rather than build on his success in the ninth, he handled the next three rounds in the same manner as most of the previous rounds. That is, he looked at the right hands, he saved looking for good hands, and at the moment when it seemed a good idea to stop looking for them and let go of one, Riakporhe would always start and seek refuge in the clinic. Worse, it was in this position that he often waited, not sure how to break out of the clinic he started or, and this would make sense, to work well inside against a fighter and a champion who has never shown any resistance to rebellion. -stop the war.

Billam-Smith throws to his right (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

This never happened, sadly, and, moreover, Riakporhe, who is now 17-1 (13), was not warned about his catch – which was not compromised, by the way – until 11, at which time Steve Gray, the referee. , he finally had enough and delivered his “final warning”. In fact, this last warning should have come sooner, because at least then Riakporhe would have thought twice about crowding in for protection. It might have helped Riakporhe, knowing that he now had no choice but to keep his distance and punch.

In the end, the warning, for Riakporhe and the fans, came too late and the point he lost in the next round, the 12th, was for using his head instead of holding it, which only added to the controversy. bout. Meanwhile, Billam-Smith, as usual, just shrugged it off and got on with it. This wasn’t his style of fighting, obviously, but it was still a fight he had to treat with respect, a fight he had to finish to the end, and a fight he had to win.

He did, of course, though thanks to three scorecards that were very close to consolation: 116-111, 115-112, 115-112. Remember the point deduction Riakporhe received in the 12th round and those points are very shocking, however, for Billam-Smith, 20-1 (13), the most important thing is to win.

Still improving, the 33-year-old has, in the space of 13 months, beaten two of his closest domestic rivals and, even more impressively, managed not only to avenge his defeat (against Riakporhe in 2019) but to use his technique. past these strange opponents in battles against everything Chris Billam-Smith stands for. In order to beat them, in other words, he had to hug the bad guy. He had to put up with the frustration and try not to let it become his biggest threat. He had to hold it together and see it clearly.

In doing this, entertainment had to be given up, and all efforts to entertain the crowd, which had made a name for themselves a few years ago, were in vain. With the 24 rounds he spent entertaining Okolie and Riakporhe, it wasn’t going to be an opportunity to gain new fans or raise his profile to the next level, but that’s okay. That, for Billam-Smith, can wait. This, he knew, was just something he had to go through; something he had to endure and rise. Fun things can start again when they find an opponent with similar beliefs.

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