Tonight, the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth will host a historic world title fight between two former sparring partners: Lawrence Okolie and Chris Billam-Smith. The WBO cruiserweight champion Okolie will travel to the hometown of his challenger Billam-Smith, who holds the Commonwealth and European belts. The fight will be broadcast live on Sky Sports .
Okolie (19-0, 14 KOs) won the world title in March 2021 by stopping Krzysztof Glowacki in six rounds and has since defended it three times, most recently against David Light in Manchester last month. Okolie is aiming to unify the division and eventually move up to heavyweight.
Billam-Smith (17-1, 12 KOs) is a rising star who has impressed with his exciting performances and fan-friendly attitude. He won the Commonwealth title in 2019 by beating Craig Glover and added the European title in 2020 by outpointing Deion Jumah. He has also shown his toughness and heart in two memorable fights against Isaac Chamberlain and Armend Xhoxhaj, both of which he won by knockout. Billam-Smith is a skilled boxer who likes to work on the inside and throw combinations. He is also passionate and loyal, representing his beloved AFC Bournemouth and drawing inspiration from his late father.
WHEN IS OKOLIE VS. BILLAM-SMITH? START TIME
- Date: Saturday, May 27
- Start time: 7 p.m. BST / 2 p.m. ET
- Main event ringwalks (approx): 10 p.m. BST / 5 p.m. ET
- The fight takes place at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, England.
- The event is set to get underway at 7 p.m. BST / 2 p.m. ET with the main event ringwalks scheduled for 10 p.m. BST / 5 p.m. ET. These timings could change due to the length of the undercard fights.
- Sky Sports will broadcast the fight in the UK
The fight between Okolie and Billam-Smith is not only a clash of champions, but also a clash of former friends. The two fighters used to train together at Shane McGuigan’s gym, where they sparred many rounds and learned from each other. However, when Okolie decided to switch trainers and join SugarHill Steward, the mentor of Tyson Fury, he opened the door for a potential fight with Billam-Smith. The two have exchanged respectful words on social media, but also expressed their desire to win by knockout.
The fight will take place at the Vitality Stadium, the home of AFC Bournemouth, which will be transformed into a boxing arena for the occasion. It will be the biggest boxing event ever to take place on the south coast and a dream come true for Billam-Smith, who is a lifelong fan of the football club. The stadium will be filled with thousands of supporters who will create an electric atmosphere for their local hero. Okolie, however, is not intimidated by the hostile crowd and believes he will silence them with his performance.
Okolie vs Billam-Smith is a fight that has all the ingredients for a classic: two talented and hungry fighters, two contrasting styles and personalities, two rival camps and trainers, and two passionate fan bases. It is also a fight that could have major implications for the cruiserweight division, as the winner could go on to face other world champions or contenders such as Mairis Briedis, Ilunga Makabu or Richard Riakporhe.
Below are some final comments from the main event fighters.
LAWRENCE OKOLIE, WBO World Cruiserweight Champion
“I’m coming to make an extremely big statement. I’m my own man on my own journey and there’s stuff that I want and need and I’m ready to fight for it.”
“I’ve shown time and time again I’m ready to take the risk and do what needs to be done. I can say I’m in amazing shape and I’m coming to do a job.”
“The way Chris fights, he’s always all action. He comes to throw a lot of punches, put a lot of pressure on where he’s the home fighter, he’s going to have 15,000 people screaming for him, hoping that he can dethrone me. So I’m going to have to be devastating and he’s going to make it very easy for me.”
CHRIS BILLAM-SMITH, Challenger
“Lawrence is obviously a very big one-punch puncher, but if you look at my last fight it shows that I can punch.
“He might think this is just me saying it. But he’s also not used to getting hit so it’s almost like a double effect. Once you get hit and you know how to deal with that, panic doesn’t set in. I think for him panic will set in on Saturday night.
“Any fight against Lawrence is dangerous because he can punch and he’s got long levers so you have to take educated risks and you’ve got to really work hard to get the shots off you need to do. That’s what we’ve been doing the whole time.”
“I don’t expect him to stand there and trade with me. He knows he can’t do that. I imagine he’s going to be trying to keep it long and move his feet. The hard thing with Lawrence is getting in position. So we know what we’ve got to do.”
“I’ve got to stay concentrated. It’s not just going in there, just going hell for leather. That’s not how this game works at the top level. It’s got to be concentration the whole time and focus. That’s how the job will get done.”
“It’s got all the ingredients to be a really special night. Everything from it being two Brits for a world title, for me being in the stadium. But also being old gym-mates, old trainer etc. There’s a real story to it for me and I just thrive off of that and let that fuel me,” he said.
OKOLIE VS. BILLAM-SMITH CARD
Lawrence Okolie 199 vs. Chris Billam-Smith 199
Sam Eggington 153 vs. Joe Pigford 153
Kariss Artingstall 125 vs. Jade Taylor 128
Lee Cutler 153 vs. Stanley Stannard 153
Michael McKinson 148 vs. Lebin Morales 146
Isaac Chamberlain 199 vs. Daniel Bocianksi 196
Mace Ruegg 136 vs. Dean Dodge 136
Lewis Edmonson 181 vs. Petar Nosic 181
Tommy Welch 222 vs. Amine Boucetta 224