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Chris Billam-Smith Outlasts Richard Riakporhe, Avenges Single Defeat and Retains WBO Title

Chris Billam-Smith (right) went down on Richard Riakpohre en route to a unanimous decision win in their June 15 rematch in London. Photo credit: Lawrence Lustig, BOXXER

Five years later, Chris Billam-Smith finally broke the ‘Midnight Train.’

The victory was well-timed for the defending WBO cruiserweight title, who outpointed countryman Richard Riakporhe over twelve rounds. The results were 116-111, 115-112 and 115-112 for Billam-Smith in their Sky Sports/Peacock+ main event on Saturday at Selhurst Park in London.

Billam-Smith defended his title for the second time and avenged his only defeat in that career. Riakporhe won a split decision in their July 2019 battle for undefeated prospects at the O2 in London.

Riakporhe was once again given a hometown opportunity, this time in his first title fight. Ring’s No. 5-rated cruiserweight won a jabs battle in the opening round. The first time title contender came with a purpose, and right hands up and to the body. Bournemouth’s Billam-Smith, ranked No. 1 at 200, was more active on his feet but less efficient in his punches as he struggled to stop his opponent’s best weapon.

Billam-Smith and Riakporhe both landed one right hand during a brief exchange in the second round. The action was less fluid than the steady opening cycle. Riakporhe lunges forward but usually throws one punch at a time. Billam-Smith was unable to capitalize, as the two often clashed in what was a repeat of the early stages of their first meeting.

Referee Steve Gray continued to work harder than expected in the third round. Two of Britain’s cruiserweights battled a relentless attack.

Blood began to flow from Billam-Smith’s nose for the fourth time, a product of Riakporhe’s sustained jab. Riakporhe jabbed to the body as well but got a big uppercut later in the round. A right hand drove Billam Smith into the ropes. One fell behind the frame, before the two joined another clinic. Billam-Smith split guard with a right uppercut in the closing seconds.

Billam-Smith’s left hand found its way to Riakporhe’s chin late in the fifth round. He then evaded a response from Riakporhe and connected with a right hand. Billam-Smith’s momentum came to a brief halt when he was cautioned for hitting on the break in stoppage time. The defensive line blocked the sixth with right hands during a separate exchange.

The story continued when the fight entered the second half. Riakporhe landed a right hand shortly after the first minute of the seventh round. Billam-Smith is connected by combination with the body. Time was called to reinsert Riakporhe’s mouth. Billam-Smith was in the lead when the fight resumed and was closed in force. It was the opposite of the first fight, when he was shaken and beaten. The streak was the difference on the scorecards that produced his only career loss.

Concerns have been expressed in Riakporhe’s corner, who feel that their offense is failing to take this time as they bid for their first title. The speech was not fully heard as Billam-Smith was in charge of the eighth term. Riakporhe managed to commit to more than one punch at a time. Billam-Smith landed a left hook to the body, after which he slipped a right and continued to attack. Billam-Smith’s hook landed, as did a right hand around Riakpohre’s guard.

Riakporhe was warned for a low blow early in the ninth, just as Billam-Smith lost his gum shield to an overhand right. Riakporhe’s disciplined approach led to the right hand changing momentum later in the round. Billam-Smith was backed into the corner but managed to get out of trouble. Riakporhe landed a left hook in the final minute of what was his best round up to that point.

Both fighters were ordered to keep it clean throughout the tenth round. It didn’t stop Riakporhe from starting the action either side of that break as he continued his late surge. Billam-Smith’s mouth was open as he returned to his jab. Riakporhe just missed with a right hand but was warned to follow up with his header.

Billam-Smith regained control one minute into the eleventh round. The right hand landed on the title holder, who tightened his defense. Riakporhe was given a final warning for heading the ball. Billam-Smith stepped inside and backed away to avoid a right hand. A traditional one-two and a left hook landed on Billam-Smith.

The obvious has been said out loud but it should have been said before the final round. Riakporhe and his team knew very well that a knockdown was needed to win. That moment would never come, even though Riakporhe let his hands go at the start of twelve. Billam-Smith was ready for the chase and threw a lot of punches.

Riakporhe’s final header was enough for the referee, who called time and disallowed the point. It mattered little as the distance was too far out of reach. Neither boxer has found anything to follow.

Billam-Smith (20-1, 13 knockouts) extended his winning streak to eleven in a row since losing to Riapkporhe (17-1, 13 KOs). He won the WBO cruiserweight title in a twelve round decision over the then undefeated Lawrence Okolie last May in his hometown of Bournemouth.

Follow @JakeNDaBox

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