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Chris Billam-Smith on Usyk Dream Fight: ‘I Asked Shane McGuigan to Train Me to Beat Him in 2017

Chris Billam-Smith on Usyk Dream Fight

After handling dangerous challenger Richard Riakporhe at Selhurst Park, Chris Billam-Smith believes he can beat any of his rival cruiserweight world champions and even go undisputed himself. He also explains why boxing Oleksandr Usyk is no longer an impossible dream. Chris Billam-Smith is cultivating a remarkable habit of turning his dreams into a reality.

When he turned professional, he wasn’t touted as a future champion. Yet he managed to win Commonwealth, British, and European titles. Last year, at the Vitality Stadium in his hometown of Bournemouth, he dethroned Lawrence Okolie to win the WBO cruiserweight world championship. On Saturday, he defeated the only man to have previously beaten him as a pro, outscoring power-puncher Richard Riakporhe at Selhurst Park in south London to defend his world title.

“The child in me who loves football so much – I get to box in two Premier League football stadiums, it’s wild. It was beyond my wildest dreams at one point and now I’ve managed to do two, it’s just crazy,” he told Sky Sports.

But he’s not done with dreams yet. He believes he can beat any of his rival world champions now.

“[Jai] Opetaia’s a great fighter, they’re all great fighters. [Gilberto] ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez is probably the most underrated champion I’d say. What he did with [Arsen] Goulamirian was fantastic. [He’s] a really strong, durable southpaw, can counter-punch, got fast hands, a really good fighter,” he said. But that is what he wants next – world title unifications. “It’s mad. That’s what we’re looking at now. We’re not interested in anything else, really, other than other champions,” Billam-Smith continued.

Riakporhe was a dangerous challenger, but Billam-Smith answered his doubters with Saturday night’s performance.

“They don’t see everything else. They see the [Mateusz] Masternak fight. They see the [Armend] Xhoxhaj fight and me getting clipped and the Isaac [Chamberlain] war and they don’t see the ins and outs of the gym and I can turn it on when I need to,” he said.

“Xhoxhaj wasn’t a great performance, so everyone backed Lawrence. Masternak wasn’t a great performance, so everyone backed Richard, but mentally I can switch it on. “The Masternak fight was difficult, everything around it, the massive high [against Okolie] coming into that fight, going to a smaller venue, everyone’s expecting you to win.

“No one really cares about that fight, everyone wants to see me and Richard. All the talk was about Richard. And the same with the Xhoxhaj fight, everyone’s talking about what’s next. No one’s heard of him before. We’re only human, you can switch off, but big fights I can turn up every time.”

Despite the humble beginnings of his pro career, Billam-Smith can now dare to dream of going undisputed at cruiserweight.

If he keeps on winning, he could perhaps snare the biggest fight of all, if undisputed heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk decides to return to his former division.

Usyk has publicly said he would consider returning to the division he has previously unified.

“If he comes back down, that’s wild. I said to Shane [McGuigan, his trainer] when I first joined the gym, we were talking about Usyk, [saying] he’s a special fighter. I was going: ‘You’re going to train me to beat him.’ I said that to him [in] 2017. I think I’d only had my debut,” Billam-Smith laughed.

“He’s a special fighter, it would be an honour to share the ring with him as it would ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez, as it would Opetaia. I’m enjoying my career.

“I’m not saying it’s an easy fight by any stretch of the imagination.

“What a special fighter. To share the ring with someone like him would be phenomenal. And as fighters we go in every fight believing we can win it.”

Credit: Sky Sports

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