After angling for a fight in Bournemouth for years under his previous promoters, Chris Billam-Smith is set to headline in his hometown for the second time in six months.
‘The Gentleman’ is looking to push for a world title in 2023 and fights Kosovo’s Armend Xhoxhaj, as he looks to remain active and keep his name in the mix.
A card in Bournemouth gives the local talent a chance to shine on the big stage, with the likes of Lee Cutler (11-1) and Mace Ruegg (7-0), son of Gemma who went the distance with Shannon Courtenay last week, both given the opportunity to box on Sky Sports.
Meanwhile, Hull’s Harvey Lambert, who beat British title challenger Conah Walker in the amateurs, makes his pro debut in the super-welterweight division with the aim of announcing himself onto the domestic scene.
Popular social media star Viddal Riley was due to fight for the fourth time this year, taking on Belgium’s Amine Boucetta (7-5), as he looks to show that he has the skills to match his superstardom. Unfortunately, Riley pulled out at the last minute with a viral infection.
Michael McKinson (21-1) returns to action following an unsuccessful trip across the pond, where he suffered his first defeat against the highly rated Vergil Ortiz Jr. The southpaw Portsmouth fan fights Nicaragua’s Roberto Arriaza (19-4), who went the distance with Sebastian Formella, as he tries to get back to winning ways.
Caroline Dubois (4-0, 3KO’s) continues to build a strong knockout record like her brother, Daniel, and fights Sofia Rodriguez (5-7), where a stoppage would show that power truly runs in the family. This would be the first opponent that she has stopped who has never been knocked out previously.
Cori Gibbs (17-0) takes on a tough task against the UK’s oldest champion Jimmy First (13-0), holder of the Central Area lightweight title at 41-years-old. This will be ‘Jimmy The Fist’s’ highest profile to date, having turned professional just five years ago and the Yorkshireman will be out to prove that age is nothing but a number, against the much-fancied Gibbs.
Historic Scottish heavyweight champion, Nick Campbell (5-0) also appears on the card in what could prove to be his toughest test to date. He fights Newcastle’s Steve Robinson (5-1) who suffered a shock defeat earlier this year, but has three first round knockouts to his name. This fight is sure to be fireworks with both men starting their careers late and having no time to spare if they are to challenge for domestic titles.
However the fight of the night, on paper, is Dan Azeez (17-0) against former world title challenger Rocky Fielding (30-2). Azeez puts his British title on the line against Fielding, who has beaten the likes of John Ryder at super-middleweight and has now stepped up to a more comfortable, yet crowded, light-heavyweight division.
The scouser is looking to revitalise his career and will be hoping that his experience against champions like Canelo Alvarez and Callum Smith will stand him in good stead for a domestic title challenge. He got off to a bad start though, missing weight by 1 pound and not coming back for a second attempt. It means that Azeez retains his British title and is the only one eligible to win the vacant Commonwealth strap.
Finally, the star of the show, Chris Billam-Smith (16-1) can see a world title fight on the horizon and will be looking to make a statement against Armend Xhoxhaj (14-2). The local hero will be seeking a stoppage, having gone the distance in four of his last five fights and has the opportunity to get one, against an opponent who has been stopped in both of his career defeats.
However, Xhoxhaj will be looking to spoil the party after a career best win over Roman Fress in his last fight. The 28-year-old holds the WBO Inter-Continental belt and is ranked ninth in the world by the same organisation. Billam-Smith will surely have his eyes on Jai Opetaia’s world title, but would be wise to not look past his dance partner this weekend, who could prove to be a real ‘banana skin’ opponent.
The card will be broadcast live on Sky Sports this Saturday from 7pm, with Billam-Smith expected to fight around 10pm.