MNO Sports >MMA Arena >Chris Billam-Smith is a different animal five years on from Richard Riakporhe defeat

Chris Billam-Smith is a different animal five years on from Richard Riakporhe defeat


Chris Billam-Smith has only one blemish on his record, against the man he is fighting in Crystal Palace on Saturday.

And yes, you would be right in thinking he wants to settle a score against Richard Riakporhe. It was close five years ago at the 02, a split decision that we felt should have gone his way.

He enters Riakporhe's backyard as a proud world champion with a WBO cruiserweight belt he never expected would be his when he walked into our gym to spar George Groves back in the day.

He was very raw then and had never won a national title. But we saw something in him, and he showed us what he was capable of. Riakporhe is a dangerous fighter. He can punch and has a good pedigree, as his unbeaten record shows.

But this game is about taking punishment as well as dishing it out. What happens when you throw everything at your opponent and he comes back at you?

Billam-Smith couldn’t push on effectively in their first fight, but five years down the line he is a different proposition. His confidence has come on leaps and bounds. He has won British, European and a world title since then.

He beat Lawrence Okolie when he wasn’t expected to. Okolie sanctioned that fight because he thought it would be a straightforward night for him against an old stablemate who he had bossed in sparring.

Big mistake. Billam-Smith is a different animal in ten-ounce gloves in front of a packed arena. He comes alive and morphs into a much better boxer, tougher, more determined. He still gets hit. You can’t be an aggressive fighter and not take shots, as I can testify. But he loves the action under lights.

Richard Riakporhe came out on top against Chris Billam-Smith five years ago (

Will Chris Billam-Smith come out on top against Richard Riakporhe? Share your predictions in the comments below

He wins this contest by nullifying Riakporhe. He needs to use his jab and keep his head moving. He must be smart about when to open up and let his shots go.

Billam-Smith has demonstrably improved since their first meeting but I’m not sure Riakporhe has. He has been 12 rounds only once in his career and will have to show something new to win, not least that he can take serious punishment.

We know Billam-Smith can do that. He is used to going long. It might be tricky early doors but he will come into his own in the second half of the fight and it wouldn’t surprise me were he to take Riakporhe out in the final quarter.

*Follow Barry on Twitter at @ClonesCyclone @McGuigans_Gym

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