Boxing Social writers Garry White and Luke G. Williams go head-to-head to debate the potential outcome of this weekend’s intriguing European and Commonwealth cruiserweight title contest between Chris Billam-Smith and Isaac Chamberlain.
Bournemouth-bred White makes the case for Billam-Smith, while Williams puts forward his theory as to why fellow south Londoner Chamberlain may upset the odds.
In the same week that – 57 years ago – Freddie Mills was found dead in a Soho side street, fellow Bournemouthian Chris Billam-Smith will be striving to take another step closer to matching Mills’ hard-won world title success.
The Bournemouth International Centre will mark a homecoming for the man nicknamed ‘The Gentleman’ and he will be sure of a rambunctious welcome on what is a rare big-ticket Dorset fight night.
I have had the pleasure of talking to the 31-year-old on several occasions over the years as he has progressed up the cruiserweight rankings, and he has always been clear about his pride in positively representing the south coast town and adding to Mills’ blue riband fistic legacy.
If CBS can chain the nerves and harness the obvious expectation from those at ringside, then I don’t think it matters what Isaac Chamberlain brings on the night. The best version of the ‘Gentleman’ beats the best that ‘Chambo’ has to offer.
Billam-Smith holds the European and Commonwealth belts, and if the rumours are to be believed, is only one win away from a world title shot. His career arc has been one of gradual upwards improvement culminating in an emphatic eighth-round knockout in his recent rematch with Tommy McCarthy. A narrow SD loss to Richard Riakporhe remains the only reverse on his record. However, this should be seen in the context of Riakporhe’s continued unblemished progression to a world title shot of his own.
Although on paper Chamberlain has a very similar record it badly lacks depth. A tight decision win against Luke Watkins remains his best win if one discounts his recent success against former world title challenger Dilan Prasovic – the Croatian being the latest owner of a manufactured unbeaten record built on cardboard.
With three first-round wins on the bounce, much is being made of Chamberlain’s improvement and newly found power. But the calibre of opponents wheeled out on those Hennessey Sports promoted shows beamed out on Channel 5 stands up to zero scrutiny. Worst of all Chamberlain will always have to carry the stigma of that infamous ‘British Beef’ clash with Lawrence Okolie; still a contender for the most soporific ten rounds in a British ring.
But Chamberlain is tricky and difficult, and I don’t, therefore, expect the powerful Billam-Smith to blast him out. Much has also been made of Chamberlain’s hunger in numerous interviews concerning his reformed street hoodlum background, with The Guardian’s Donald McCrae. But backstories by themselves don’t win fights.
The Brixton man will have his moments, with probably neither man hitting the deck throughout the 12 rounds, but I fully expect Billam-Smith to carry it home by at least a couple of rounds on all three scorecards.
Luke G. Williams
Let’s be clear on one thing – my ‘official’ prediction for this fight is that Billam-Smith will win via a closely fought but clear points decision. As Garry has beautifully articulated above, the Bournemouth man has been operating at a far more competitive level than Chamberlain, whose sole outing against a higher level foe resulted in embarrassment against Lawrence Okolie in February 2018.
This factor – coupled with the fact Billam-Smith will be enjoying considerable hometown support at the Bournemouth International Centre – makes it easy to see why the likeable south coaster is an 8-15 favourite to prevail.
However, it is certainly possible to construct a convincing case for a Chamberlain victory. He has the edge on Billam-Smith in terms of speed, and possibly skill too, and recently seems to be punching harder than ever. Furthermore, the Brixton banger has won his last four contests in a total of just six rounds, and although the level of opposition in said contests was weak, it’s a run of form which will have left him brimming with confidence after enduring a frustrating near two-year hiatus from the ring.
Like so many close fights, however, this is a contest likely to be settled in ‘the mind’ and it is here that Chamberlain may have the advantage. Billam-Smith may be fighting in front of a large home crowd, but this could easily prove to be a mixed blessing and a distraction.
As the heavy betting favourite, all the pressure is on Billam-Smith. Few expect Chamberlain to prevail, and after the debacle of his performance against Okolie he most certainly has a point to prove. He has also demonstrated in the past that he has the ability and mental fortitude to overcome adversity in the ring – witness his points victory against Wadi Camacho in 2016 when he fought for more than seven rounds after suffering a dislocated shoulder.
If Chamberlain can channel the spirit of that gusty performance this Saturday night then he could well upset the odds, and send the local fans home disappointed.