Chris Billam-Smith says rematch with Lawrence Okolie is being held up because of “the way he (Okolie) fights”

CHRIS BILLAM-SMITH has given Boxing News one reason why a rematch with Lawrence Okolie is yet to be signed off.

Back in May the 33-year-old sent a partisan crowd at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth into raptures when he defeated Lawrence Okolie to become the new WBO Cruiserweight champion.

Okolie walked into the home of AFC Bournemouth as the betting favourite and was expected by many to retain his title. However, the work-rate and hustle of Billam-Smith helped rip up the script and played their part in securing a majority decision over his former gym-mate.

That was not the entire story, though. Known for his ugly tactics, Okolie was deducted a point for holding in rounds five and seven and also found himself on the floor in the fourth, tenth and eleventh sessions. It was a messy affair, promoted by Boxxer and shown live on Sky Sports, and one to forget in a memorable year for the sport inside the ring.

The former champion has since chosen to activate a rematch clause, but Billam-Smith says there may be an issue currently preventing the fight from being announced.

“I think he wants the fight,” he said. “I think the issue may be with broadcasters because of the way he fights. It’s an entertainment business, an entertainment network, and [his] fights aren’t that entertaining. But contractually to Boxxer he’s contracted for the rematch, so we’ll see what happens.”

Billam-Smith wants to fight again by the end of November and, while Okolie may be the front-runner, there is the Plan B option of Polish veteran and former European champion Mateusz Masternak.

The cruiserweight division could be about to enter another busy period. Next week Jai Opetaia defends his IBF belt against British hope Jordan Thompson while Richard Riakporhe is rumoured to be the next defence for WBA titlist Arsen Goulamirian. Should Billam-Smith be successful in November then 2024 could spell unifications for the Bournemouth supporter.

“The next fight is important because it’s an easy slip-up fight because it’s one after you’ve achieved it,” Billam-Smith said. “But then after that I’m looking at unifying. The other champions out there are really good champions but all of them are beatable, and I believe I’m the best out the lot.

“It’s about trying to manoeuvre my way into those fights. Obviously, there’s talk of Richard getting the Goulamirian fight so I’d love the winner of that, but I’d also love Richard to win that because that would be an amazing spectacle for us to have a rematch for a unification. Badou Jack’s vacating the cruiserweight to go up to bridgerweight and fight there and I’m pretty sure [Ilunga] Makabu’s got another shot against Noel Mikaelyan so I think they’re fighting for the WBC title, which I assume will be a Don King promotion. That’s never a good thing necessarily but if they’re the champions they’re the people I’m gonna be targeting next year.”

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