Shropshire Star

Chris Billiam-Smith has faith in Shane McGuigan ahead of his world title defence

Richard Riakporhe handed WBO cruiserweight champion Billam-Smith his only professional defeat of his 20-fight career in July 2019.


Chris Billam-Smith insists trainer Shane McGuigan has devised a “great game plan” ahead of his world title defence against Richard Riakporhe on Saturday.

Billam-Smith executed McGuigan’s instructions against former stable star Lawrence Okolie in May 2023, where he was crowned WBO cruiserweight champion in his home town of Bournemouth.

The 33-year-old has confidence in his trainer’s plan ahead of his meeting with Riakporhe, who handed him his only professional defeat of his career in July 2019.

“Shane (McGuigan) always comes up with good game plans and having him in my corner is an invaluable asset,” Billam-Smith told the PA news agency.

“Every time someone fights someone from our gym, they don’t like going up against Shane and one of his fighters so it’s a privilege to have him there and we have a great game plan.

“You don’t know how it’s going to affect your opponent, but it’s nice having the confidence in your coach.”

Billam-Smith is unbeaten since his split-decision defeat to Riakporhe at the O2 Arena.

Richard Riakporhe
Riakporhe celebrates victory against Billam-Smith in 2019 (Bradley Collyer/PA)

He credited his opponent for his improvement since their last bout, but Billam-Smith believes he will take Riakporhe into “deep waters” on Saturday night.

“He’s polished his work quite a bit, he’s done a lot of tidying up and has more variety in his work,” he added.

“He’s more calm and composed in the ring and so I think he’s improved in those areas.

“I like to set a high pace and put people under an immense amount of pressure and take them into deep waters, so we’ll find out if he can go there. He fought the first fight in deep waters, but it will be different this time.”

The fight at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park will see Billam-Smith’s tour of Premier League grounds continue after last May’s triumph at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium.

The orthodox fighter is relishing the prospect of defending his title for a second time after victory over Mateusz Masternak in December.

“It’s a huge fight and an opportunity to avenge the only loss on my record,” he said.

“It’s another world title fight at a football stadium which means a lot to me and it’s another big domestic fight as well.

“To defend my world title is an honour but who it’s against means it’s a real massive fight for me.”

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