Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth - For the WBO cruiserweight title, Chris Billam-Smith (18-1, 13 KOs) put in a shocking performance as he scored three knockdowns to become a world champion, with a twelve round majority decision over previously undefeated Lawrence Okolie (19-1, 14 KOs).
Okolie was also deducted two points for constant holding. The scores were a criminal 112-112 draw, and 116-107 and 115-108 for Billam-Smith.
The two rivals were former sparring partners under trainer Shane McGuigan. Last year, Okolie parted ways with McGuigan and hired United States trainer SugarHill Steward.
When the fight began, Okolie went right after Billam-Smith as they were fighting on the inside. Okolie was all over Billam-Smith on the inside. A shot by Okolie buckled the legs of Billam-Smith in a physical fight. Okolie continued to be aggressive in the second, keeping Billam-Smith on the inside.
In the third, Okolie received a hard warning for his hit and hold tactics. The contest continued to stay in close. There wasn't much offense coming from Billam-Smith, who seemed to be looking to weather the storm in the third.
Billam-Smith came roaring hard in the fourth, when he dropped Okolie with a big left hand during the round. Okolie, down for the first time in his career, was badly hurt and hanging on for dear life as Billam-Smith was looking to finish him off. Okolie's legs were unsteady, but he survived to the final bell.
In the fifth, Okolie went right back to holding to smother the offense of Billam-Smith. Okolie still seemed to be unsteady as Billam-Smith was now controlling the action. Things got worse for Okolie, when the referees deducted a point for constant holding. During the sixth, Okolie was doing a lot of holding and received another hard warning. Both landed their share of punches in close.
The seventh round saw Okolie coming in close and mostly targeting the body. Okolie would once again receive another hard warning for holding. By the end of the round, Okolie was deducted another point for constant holding. In the eight, Okolie came out very aggressive as he realized the fight was getting away from him. He was landing solid punches on Billam-Smith, who appeared to be wearing down. In the ninth, a lot of in-fighting between the two. Okolie still appeared to be the fresher man and doing more damage until Billam-Smith came alive in the final minute and rallied with punches in the final thirty seconds.
During the tenth, a second knockdown was scored when Okolie walked right into Billam-Smith's hook and went down to his knees. A moment later, Okolie badly rocked Billam-Smith with a series of punches. Billam-Smith regained his composure and weathered the storm. At the start of the eleventh, Okolie stunned Billam-Smith and was trying to finish him off. He was smothering his own work by pressing right into Billam-Smith. At the end of the eleventh, a third knockdown was scored when a series of punches during inside punches sent Okolie down to his knees.
In the twelfth and final round, Okolie was desperate but unable to connect with his big shots. Billam-Smith used his legs and was able to ride out the clock.