Boxing

Disneyland, clown talk and a declining champion?

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Chris Billam-Smith and Richard Riakporhe both have 13 knockouts on their records [Reuters]

WBO cruiserweight world champion Chris Billam-Smith described his 2019 loss to Richard Riakporhe as “irrelevant” before Saturday’s rematch in London.

The British pair will meet at Selhurst Park, home of Premier League football club Crystal Palace.

Billam-Smith lost by split decision to Londoner Riakporhe nearly five years ago, the only blemish on his 20-fight record.

“I’m different in so many ways,” the 33-year-old said at Thursday’s news conference.

“It’s so irrelevant as I almost see me as a different person and almost see myself as if it was 20 years ago.”

Billam-Smith won the title against former stablemate Lawrence Okolie in May 2023 before a lacklustre first defence against Mateusz Masternak in December.

“All the experience I’ve had of world championship fights, caps and headlining the big shows – I will use all that experience and go there and perform,” Billam-Smith added.

‘I’ve seen gaps in Billam-Smith’

Billam-Smith has enjoyed great support when fighting in front of his Bournemouth faithful in his last four bouts.

But on Saturday he will travel to the lion’s den as Riakporhe, 34, lives out his childhood dream of competing at Selhurst Park.

Nicknamed ‘The Midnight Train’, Riakporhe’s career stalled when he suffered a serious hand injury in 2020 but he has since established himself as one of the exciting fighters in the division.

“I know my way around the ring now,” said Riakporhe, who has won all 17 of his pro bouts.

“I have been in a lot of situations in the ring and have been able to overcome them. It’s given me a lot of confidence.”

In an otherwise fairly cordial news conference, Riakporhe suggested the champion is on the decline.

“I’ve started to see a lot of gaps,” Riakporhe said, adding that Billam-Smith was “more live and fresh” in their first contest.

The pair exchanged niceties, with Riakporhe’s final message being “take care” and Billam-Smith, nicknamed ‘The Gentleman’, replying with a “thank you”.

Disneyland and clown talk on the undercard

Ben Whittaker speaks to Ezra Arenyeka exuberantly with his hands in his coat pockets

Ben Whittaker is undefeated in seven fights since turning pro [Reuters]

Olympic silver medallist and social media phenomenon Ben Whittaker returns on the undercard against light-heavyweight Ezra Arenyeka for the WBA gold light-heavyweight title.

“You’ll see why I’m no undercard but the main event come Saturday,” Whittaker, 27, said.

“I’ll take you through a couple of rounds. Every time you’re about to stumble, I’ll pick you up again.”

Nigeria-born Arenyeka, now based in Cheshire, was relatively unknown before he gatecrashed a news conference before Whittaker’s previous bout and demanded the fight.

“I feel like a kid in Disneyland,” said Arenyeka, 28, who is studying for a business PHD.

Londoner Dan Azeez – who faces Croatia‘s Hrvoje Sep – said “the journey starts again” after his light-heavyweight loss to Joshua Buatsi in February.

“I’m ready to prove that I’m still one of the best light-heavyweights, not just in Britain but the world,” Azeez said.

In the most entertaining exchanges, cruiserweight Isaac Chamberlain dismissed opponent Jack Massey’s claims that he is feeling the nerves for their European title contest.

Massey promised a knockout and called Chamberlain a “clown”, to which the reply came: ‘You’re just a big lump that can fight a bit.'”

More boxing from the BBC

Source : ESPN.com

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