Chris Billam-Smith defeats Richard Riakporhe to retain WBO world cruiserweight title at Selhurst Park | boxing news

Chris Billam-Smith denied Richard Riakporhe his dream homecoming when he beat his British rival by unanimous decision to gain revenge and successfully defend his WBO world cruiserweight title at Selhurst Park.

The reigning champion produced a calculated and controlled performance to nullify his opponent’s power and ruin Riakporhe’s party at the home of Crystal Palace.

It was not only a defense of the title, but also sweet revenge for ‘The Knight’, who five years earlier had suffered the only defeat of his career against Riakporhe in a tight split decision. This time he left no doubt and took the score 116-111, 115-112, 115-112.

A prominent topic of conversation during the build-up to the fight was which of the two had improved the most since their first outing, Billam-Smith insisting he had become a completely different competitor since 2019. Riakporhe found he was right.

“Very satisfying,” he said. “I am very satisfied with the performance.

“Experience, speed and strategy” made the difference, he explained.

“Forget all the preparation,” he continued. “I have a lot of respect for Richard, he is a great fighter, he just needed a little more experience and he will learn from that.”

Riakporhe cut a composed figure amid the chaos as he worked behind his jab during the early exchanges while finding his range with two dangerous-looking right hands, the noise of which drew gasps from the expectant crowd.

Billam-Smith hit his own stride in the second round with a first real flurry forcing Riakporhe to tie him to the ropes, which soon became an early issue as the pair continued to tangle on the inside.

A mistimed right hand from Riakporhe served as a warning as it threatened to open a gap for Billam-Smith, whose right hand response was evaded.

Riakporhe underlined his power with a firm left hook as the two backed up to the ropes, the fight falling into a slightly ugly stalemate with neither man able to unlock a meaningful combination.

The war of attrition moved into the fourth as the two exchanged brutal body blows, before Billam-Smith recalled his toughness as he landed a right hook.

Billam-Smith began landing clean shots behind a sharper jab, while Riakporhe seemed the more hesitant of the two, seemingly waiting for a decisive shot to break the value defended by his opponent.

By the seventh round, Billam-Smith was firmly in control as the busier and more precise fighter, and Riakporhe began to become frustrated with how the contest had developed for him when another planned round in the corner fell through.

Billam-Smith strengthened his control of the fight in the eighth when he unleashed an uppercut to shake Riakporhe, who was left hanging over the corner of the ring. ‘The Midnight Train’ sought to respond with a huge right hand, only to once again remember Billam-Smith’s granite chin.

Knowing he was behind, Riakporhe began to loosen his hands in the closing rounds and connected with a crushing right hand only to see his momentum halted by an accidental low blow from the challenger.

Champion’s experience was soon revealed as Billam-Smith closed out what could be considered the best performance of his career with two clinical final rounds, and much was sealed forever when Riakporhe was deducted a point for the use of his head in a grip.

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