Richard Riakporhe vs Chris Billam-Smith starts slowly at the O2 as styles fail to mesh
They came in with identical 9-0 (8) records but of the two undefeated cruiserweights, tall and rangy banger Richard Riakporhe had fought the better opposition as pros while Chris Billam-Smith was the far more experienced and decorated amateur. Riakporhe, from Walworth, is trained by Mark Tibbs, while Bournemouth’s Billam-Smith is with Shane McGuigan and, as such, has sparred extensively with George Groves and, latterly, British and Commonwealth champion Lawrence Okolie.
It looked a genuine 50-50 scrap on paper and certainly seemed that way in the early stages at the O2, as they felt each other out, Billam-Smith confident but sensibly wary of Riakporhe’s big right hand, which missed a lot. It was messy at times as Billam-Smith attempted to close the distance and they fell into clinches, the Londoner trying to use his extra size to wear Chris down; he was belatedly warned for holding in the fourth. Billam-Smith boxed tidily and his lateral movement gave Riakporhe trouble. Styles largely failed to mesh in a fight between young contenders that reminded me of Okolie against Isaac Chamberlain, at the same venue last year.
Riakporhe improved from halfway in a 10-rounder, scoring to the body when he found room and landing a big right-left in the sixth, before dominating the next, in which he scored a knockdown when the ropes were adjudged to have kept Billam-Smith upright; that looked harsh.
Billam-Smith tired visibly from then on as Riakporhe closed out the stronger to secure a split decision. Scores were 96-93 for Billam-Smith, against a 97-92 and 95-94 for Riakporhe. This means that, without the contentious knockdown, it would have been a draw.