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Billam-Smith outclasses Riakporhe in rematch

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Chris Billam-Smith scored an impressive 12-round unanimous decision win over old rival Richard Riakporhe to retain his WBO cruiserweight title at Selhurst Park in London on Saturday. The official scores were 116-111, 115-112, and 115-112. The Sporting News had it a lot wider at 118-109.

With the victory, Billam-Smith (20-1) avenged a 2019 points loss to Riakporhe and turned in what was arguably a career-best performance. Despite being the champion, the Bournemouth man entered the ring as the underdog, so this was a very sweet victory for him and his team.

“I’m really pleased with my performance,” said Billam-Smith during his post-fight interview with Sky Sports in the U.K. “[The difference was] the experience, the speed and the game plan. (Trainer) Shane [McGuigan] is a master, he’s the best coach in the world.”

Riakporhe opened up with the jab in round one and it was accurate and steady into his opponent’s face. The champ stayed in hot pursuit and worked the body, but some of his work was untidy and there was a lot of clinching.

Eager to take away his foe’s lead hand, Billam-Smith did well to close the distance in the third and pounded away at the body up close. Riakporhe neglected the jab and Billam-Smith was working harder and getting the better of the inside exchanges.

For round after round, there was expectancy that Riakporhe would explode. Everything was on the line, but the challenger seemed strangely lethargic and lacked ambition. If you give Billam-Smith time just to punch, then he will hit you and Riakporhe was running out of rounds.

There were two ferocious attacks by Riakporhe in the eighth and ninth, but they came in cameos and there was no second phase of attack. Billam-Smith is renowned for his chin and resilience, so it was going to take a lot more than that to get him out.

The challenger couldn’t get it done and Billam-Smith’s workmanlike performance was more than enough to take the verdict without an ounce of controversy. He didn’t look good in his maiden defence against Mateusz Masternak, but Billam-Smith’s fires were rekindled for this one.

Riakporhe, who lost for the first time in 18 fights, was deducted a point for a headbutt in the final round, but a decision win was way beyond him by then.

“Vegas baby,” yelled Billam-Smith when asked about his future plans. The Englishman is likely to target WBA counterpart Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez for a unification matchup later this year.

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