Lawrence Okolie vs Chris Billam-Smith will be this year's first stadium show
‘The Sauce’ will travel ‘The Gentleman’s’ Bournemouth backyard
A seismic showdown on the south coast seafront is set for May 27 as Lawrence Okolie (19-0, 14KO) travels to enemy territory to defend his WBO World cruiserweight title to challenger Chris Billam-Smith (17-1, 12KO) at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, live on Sky Sports, presented by BOXXER. The world title event is being billed as "Roll of the Dice".
The biggest boxing event ever to take place on the south coast will be staged in Bournemouth’s biggest venue: the Vitality Stadium, home to Billam-Smith’s beloved Premier League football team, AFC Bournemouth.
A press conference was staged at the historic Landmark Hotel in London on Tuesday, April 4 to formally announce the event, with both fighters then due to attend the Vitality Stadium later in the evening to stage their first face-off on the pitch at half time during AFC Bournemouth’s home clash against rivals Brighton.
Londoner Okolie has held the WBO World Cruiserweight Championship since his March 2021 stoppage win over Krzysztof Głowacki. Since then he has made three successful defences – most recently handing New Zealand champion David Light the first loss of his professional career in last month’s Manchester encounter.
During his reign, Okolie has watched as a band of bonafide cruiserweight contenders has emerged, all of whom are signed to the BOXXER stable and compete exclusively on Sky Sports: Bournemouth’s Billam-Smith and London’s Richard Riakporhe and Mikael Lawal are all homegrown talents who have their eyes on his crown.
Training under Shane McGuigan – several times ‘Boxing Trainer of the Year’ among numerous sports publications – Billam-Smith has climbed the ranks steadily, winning first the Commonwealth Cruiserweight Championship and then the European Cruiserweight Championship to build a solid platform for this world title shot.
And his army of fans now extends well outside of his beloved Bournemouth thanks to his all-action fighting style: his clash with Isaac Chamberlain in July last year was hailed as a ‘Fight of the Year’ contender at the British Boxing Board of Control Annual Awards and became an instant classic for fight fans across the country and around the world.
But Billam-Smith, who has fought in front of two sold-out crowds already in Bournemouth, will need more than sheer force to take the world title from Okolie, one of the most scientific boxers the cruiserweight division has ever seen. Okolie’s precise, measured fighting style and watertight defence has kept him undefeated – and the belt around his waist.
"I'm pumped, I'm ready to go. I've just come off a successful defence where I won all 12 rounds against an unknown but tough competitor, a national champion in his homeland. Now weeks later I am going in against a known tough boxer, the highly-ranked former European champion and current Commonwealth champion Chris Billam-Smith," said Okolie.
"Not many fighters make back to back defences in such a short space of time. Not many pick the hardest fights available to them, but that's what I'm about. Chris – I love you, but I have to get the KO in this one."
Billam-Smith commented, "Fighting someone I know well for a world title is a very exciting opportunity. I’m elated to be fighting at the home of my beloved AFC Bournemouth in front of my phenomenal fans and on May 27th I will repay them by winning a world title."
BOXXER Founder and CEO Ben Shalom said, “I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that this is going to be one of the best events of the year. If you were lucky enough to get a ticket for the previous Bournemouth events, you’ll know the fans and the atmosphere are off the charts.
“For Chris Billam-Smith this is a dream come true. To fight for the world title in his hometown, in his football team’s stadium, in front of a sold-out crowd cheering him on…it’s the stuff dreams are made of.
“But Lawrence Okolie is a fighting champion. He had no hesitation in taking the fight in Bournemouth. He’s ice cold. He is undefeated. And he’s certainly not bothered about the crowd being against him. In fact that just sweetens the deal for him.
“With a stacked card, this will be the event to kick-off an incredible summer for British boxing.”
Mikael Lawal (17-0, 11 KO’s) and Isaac Chamberlain (14-2, 8 KO’s) are also confirmed for the May 27th card, with British champion Lawal defending his title in what is sure to be a thrilling encounter.
Chamberlain's previous ‘Fight of the Year’ visit to Bournemouth has endeared him to local fans and may make him an honorary local fighter for this title fight against the undefeated Lawal.
The fight takes place on the same night as the Mauricio Lara vs Leigh Wood rematch. Pre-register for tickets now at BOXXER.com.
Article sponsored by HÖRFA