Last night, on a rare Sunday night show, WBO cruiserweight champ Chris Billam-Smith successfully defended his title for the first time in stopping Mateusz Masternak in the eighth round in Bournemouth. Billam-Smith, who was given a tough fight by the Polish warrior, had to fight hard to keep his belt but he got the win in the end, this as Masternak pulled out with a rib injury.
Time was :02 of round eight and Billam-Smith is now 19-1(13). Masternak, who was ahead on two of the official score cards at the time of the sudden ending, is now 47-6(31).
It was a good fight last night, with Masternak setting a fast pace and beating the defending champion to the punch for round after round. It looked for a time as though Billam-Smith might lose his title. But the 33 year old dug in and, in round seven, he broke through with some real success with his body attack. Masternak, the older man by three years, clearly felt the shots to his midsection and this is where he suffered the rib injury.
Some harsher critics will no dout call Masternak a “quitter,” but the pain of broken ribs must be excruciating. For Billam-Smith, the next fight looks like being a rematch with Richard Riakporhe, the only man to have beaten him, this via close decision back in July of 2019. After last night’s fight, both men spoke about the rematch that seems inevitable.
“We’ll see [if I call Riakporhe for the fight]. Christmas! I want to be undisputed. I would be very keen for that fight. I never shy away from a fight. Me and Rich have boxed before but that was a different me,” Billam-Smith said post-fight. “It would be an amazing rematch. He might look at tonight and fancy his chances so bring it on.”
Indeed the unbeaten Riakporhe did see a fighter he is certain he can beat again last night. Speaking with Sky Sports, Riakporhe, 17-0(13) said he will KO Billam-Smith in a rematch.
“The shots he was being hit with by Masternak weren’t heavy shots but you could see it was hurting him,” Riakporhe said. “If I land one of those shots, how’s he going to react? How’s he going to react from a jab from me, or a right hand or a hook from me? It’s going to be very dangerous. I mean literally I’ve been dreaming of hurting him really bad. Really, really bad. And from what I’ve seen here, I know I can. I know I can.”
This is one rematch we can potentially look forward to seeing some time next year. Riakporhe doesn’t hold a world title, yet, and Billam-Smith said he wants to try and unify the cruiserweight belts. Still, this rematch is a big domestic fight that makes sense for both fighters. Maybe it can happen in the summer?