Billam-Smith subdues Riakporhe to retain title


Chris Billam-Smith subdued Richard Riakporhe to win a unanimous points decision (116-111, 115-112, 115-112) in a disciplined, dominant second defence of his WBO world cruiserweight title on Saturday.

There was a lot of holding in a fight that was ugly to watch at times, but Billam-Smith produced the cleaner work and higher workrate in front of Riakporhe’s home fans at Selhurst Park, home of the English Premier League side Crystal Palace, in London.

Victory for Billam-Smith (20-1, 13 KOs), 33, from Bournemouth, also avenged a split decision defeat to English rival Riakporhe in 2019 and perhaps should have triumphed by a wider margin than the judges had it.

Billam-Smith crucially denied dangerous puncher Riakporhe (17-1, 13 KOs), 34, from south London, the time to set his feet and throw his power punches.

A unification fight against Mexico’s Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (46-1, 30 KOs), the WBA champion, or Australia’s Jai Opetaia (25-0, 19 KOs), 28, the division’s No 1 and IBF champion, is the biggest fight now available for Billam-Smith.

“Experience, speed and the gameplan was the difference,” Billam-Smith said.

“The gameplan was spot on and I was pleased how I executed it. If we can get the Zurdo fight in America, I would love it.

“I thought I should have won it 8-4 at worst, he didn’t really catch me. Richard will learn from that and go on to greater things.”

Billam-Smith won the WBO belt with a majority decision over Lawrence Okolie a year ago, then defeated Mateusz Masternak in eight rounds in December, but this was his best performance so far in three world title fights.

There was a lot of holding early on, especially from Riakporhe, but the cleaner work was from the champion.

Riakporhe began Round 5 well, but he was unable to build upon it and put Billam-Smith under sustained pressure. Billam-Smith threw a good right hook later in Round 5 and in Round 6 put together a series of combinations.

Riakporhe frequently smothered Billam-Smith to interrupt the champion’s rhythm, but Billam-Smith’s workrate saw him take a points lead into the second half of the fight.

Billam-Smith hurt Riakporhe in the eighth round when he spun him around with an uppercut, but Riakporhe responded in Round 9 with his best punches of the fight when he finally let his hands go.

Billam-Smith survived that pressure of the ninth round and once again was good at close range to reassert his authority in Round 10. Riakporhe was docked a point in the last round but by then he was a distance behind on points and had shown little to suggest he could produce a stoppage.

Whittaker cruises to points win

Ben Whittaker had to be content with a dominant points win over Ezra Arenyeka in a light-heavyweight contest, as he continues his journey towards world title contention.

The English boxer, an Olympic silver medallist from three years ago, was taken 10 rounds for the first time in his career and won by wide scores of 100-89, 99-90 and 99-90.

“I knew he was going to be tough,” Whittaker said.

“I wanted to knock him out but I kept it clean. It turned into WWE at times but I came away with the win.

“I hurt him a couple of times. I made him look silly and won easy.”

Whittaker (8-0, 5 KOs) has accumulated thousands of followers on social media with his showboating and eye-catching knockouts. It can split opinion, but what is beyond debate is the talent Whittaker has which he showed in a comfortable points win over Arenyeka (12-1, 10 KOs), 28, from Nigeria.

Whittaker, 27, from Wolverhampton, showed great combinations, skills and reflexes but he could not make a dent in his opponent. Whittaker did enough to win the rounds, without putting Arenyeka under any serious pressure.

Arenyeka was docked a point in Round 7 for use of the elbow and his frustration increased in the later rounds as Whittaker toyed with him. It was not until the final minute of the fight that Whittaker threatened to pull off the stoppage.

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