Written by Jonathan Nagioff (@JonathanNagioff). This article first appeared in Nerve magazine issue 4, and has been modified.
Bournemouth boxing sensation Chris Billam-Smith is ready for a “massive” 2019 and is expecting to land a title shot.
The Cruiserweight puncher extended his unbeaten record to 8-0 with a fifth-round stoppage victory over Kent Kauppinnen at the O2 academy in December.
The win rounded off what was a breakthrough year for the former Poole amateur, with four successive victories.
This included a crucial win over former commonwealth title challenger Robin Dupre at York Hall in October.
The 28-year-old is now in pole position for a shot at Wadi Camacho’s commonwealth belt, but Nerve Sport understands Billam-Smith might be required to fight in a final eliminator before a shot at the belt is granted.
And Billam-Smith, who trains out of McGuigan’s Gym in London was pleased to get some rounds in the bank ahead of a potentially pivotal year.
Speaking to Nerve Sport after the win over Kauppinen, Billam-Smith said: “I think I dropped him 3 or 4 times and then obviously in the last (round) I didn’t drop him, but I hit him with some clean shots and he was a tough bloke.
“I knew he was going to come and have a go, but I just had to start walking him onto shots because he started to cover up well. So, I started walking him onto shots.
“I’m only the second person to stop him. He got stopped on his debut at light heavyweight with a body shot but no one’s taken him out to the head.
The Englishman talked about how he had to adapt well in his fight: “I was catching him with all shots, caught him with a nice short right hand early on, hit him with the left hook in the first round. I hit him with a good variety of shots, the uppercut.
“So, all respect to the guy, he’s a tough bloke and he kept me on my toes tonight.”
Billam-Smith sent Kauppinen crashing to the canvas in each of the opening two rounds.
However, the former MMA fighter hung in until he was stopped on his feet in the fifth of the scheduled six bout contest.
He continued: “Next year is massive for me. I’m happy I didn’t get him out of there in the first round in that respect.
“At the time obviously, I’m trying to get him out of there and I thought he was going.
“First, second round I thought he was going to go and then I started trying too hard and then I relaxed a little bit more in the fourth and started getting behind my jab more, so it’s good that I adapt like that.
“I did think I’d get to him in the end and that paid off.”
The O2 Academy Fortress
It was a fourth win for Billam-Smith at the O2 academy.
The venue which has become something of a fortress for him since making his professional debut there in September 2017.
And despite receiving such vocal support in Boscombe, Billam-Smith admits he might have fought there for the very last time as he chases title fights, which are likely to take place in larger venues.
“This venue I love,” Billam-Smith explained. “I might not ever box here again so it’s a good way to go out.
“Because it’s such a small venue, it’s only a 900-seater so everyone is hoping that the crowd grows, and the people get behind me.
“I’ll probably have to go away to win a title, I won’t be able to have a title fight up here, so the idea is to go away to London or wherever.
However, the Bournemouth puncher is hoping to make a swift return to his hometown after collecting a title.
A bout at AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium remains his ultimate aim.
Billam-Smith continued: “I got fantastic support up there (in London) last time out, win a title and then bring title fights to Bournemouth as the champion.
“That’s a dream and then keep going the way were going, 10-15 fights time, the dream is always going to be to box at a Bournemouth stadium, whether that’s Dean Court [the Vitality] or somewhere else but that dream’s always there.
“I’ve got to win fights like this and perform well the whole way up and keep building the following.
“The crowd are fantastic people, without them we don’t fight, we don’t get paid, so I owe a lot to them.”
An announcement on Billam-Smith’s next fight is expected very soon, and the Bournemouth favourite is keen for his next challenge.