Written by Jonathan Nagioff (@JonathanNagioff). This article first appeared in Nerve Magazine issue no. 2, and has been modified.
In professional boxing, there seems to be a common misconception that you have to have some genuine spite towards your opponent to perform to the best of your ability and there must be a degree of needle involved, but Bournemouth’s very own boxing sensation Chris Billam-Smith is proving this to be nothing more than a work of fiction.
It was 21.13pm on Saturday night when former Poole Amateur Boxing club prodigy Billam-Smith made a menacing entrance towards the ring. He was at the iconic York Hall in London’s East End for the biggest fight of his career so far, with cries of ‘Billam’ ringing round the arena.
The Bournemouth star was primed for action with his beloved AFC Bournemouth red and black colours ingrained on his shorts. He was accompanied by his well-renowned trainer Shane McGuigan, who has mastered the game plans for former world champion George Groves in the past.
Dagenham’s experienced puncher, Robin Dupre, stood between Chris and a shot at the Commonwealth title. As the pair stood face to face in the ring, ready to swing hell for leather at each other, it marked a stark contrast from their weigh-in just 24 hours prior.
Both men weighed inside the 175lbs limit, sharing a handshake after the final stare off and an unusual selfie, which was instigated by Dupre.
There was no bad blood in the build up and this moment epitomised the respect the two had for each other. This is a trait which can be rare in a sport which is dominated by the pressures of selling pay-per-view shows and drawing in the public.
In the ring, it was the Bournemouth man who enjoyed success in large proportions of the fight, taking the centre of the ring and finding the target with powerful left hooks to head and body. But Dupre, to his credit, showed grit and determination as he looked to turn the tables following a dominant start from his opposite number.
But in truth, Billam-Smith was always in control. By the end of the fifth round, Dupre had well and truly had enough of the punches which were connecting more crisply as the fight wore on.
With the sixth round about to commence, the 31-year-old approached Billam-Smith’s corner to inform him that he would not be continuing any further.
28-year-old Billam-Smith urged his opposite number to continue, believing that he still had more to offer. Despite Dupre seemingly having a change of heart, the referee stopped the fight, telling Dupre that he had already made his decision and it could not be overturned.
And the Dorset fighter was humble following the win and believes he has many improvements to make.
He exclusively told Nerve Sport: “You’ve got to given Robin Dupre his due, he made it awkward and he was fiddly, and he showed that before against Luke Watkins and obviously were the only two to beat him.
“So all credit to him for making it an awkward contest.”
Billam-Smith said that he was disappointed the fight didn’t go on longer. “I know what I’m capable of and he’s got a real tricky style, Robin and I saw that in the Luke Watkins fight.
“I actually watched it again this morning and I thought he’s really tricky to hit clean and find a clean shot against.
“He took a few shots, I didn’t feel like I was getting hit that clean, but it wasn’t like I was losing rounds.
“I just wasn’t boxing to the best of my ability and that’s why I’m a little bit disappointed and Shane (McGuigan) will be as well because we both know what I’m capable of and I didn’t show it enough tonight, I only showed it in bits.
“And I think as the fight went on I probably would have been finding it a bit more and I think he knew that as well.
Chris will move on to a tune up fight in December before a big Commonwealth title fight early next year as he aims to bring home a belt to his hometown.
Chris, who resides in London during the week to train at McGuigan’s gym, returns to Bournemouth at weekends and is making a name for himself amid a talented domestic scene.
His nickname, ‘The Gentleman’ is an accurate reflection of his personality outside the ring and his following is growing after every ruthless display he puts on, inside the ring.
He has not forgotten his Bournemouth roots, however with his previous two fights at Boscombe’s O2 academy, drawing in huge support.
And as Eddie Howe takes huge strides with his Cherries side in the Premier League, Chris Billam-Smith is putting Boxing back on the map in Bournemouth. Soon enough, we may see this local lad become a global star.