Chris Billam-Smith has hit Lawrence Okolie countless times while wearing 18-ounce gloves during the hundreds of rounds they’ve sparred against one another.

Billam-Smith seems confident that his power will surprise Okolie, however, when they fight with smaller gloves and without headgear Saturday night at Vitality Stadium in Billam-Smith’s hometown of Bournemouth, England. The challenger knows Okolie (19-0, 14 KOs) possesses the power to hurt him, too, but Billam-Smith feels his power has been underestimated entering their 12-round fight for Okolie’s WBO cruiserweight title.

“Lawrence is obviously a very big one-punch puncher, but if you look at my last fight it shows that I can punch,” Billam-Smith told Sky Sports on Thursday. “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 it. I think for him panic will set it on Saturday night.”

The 30-year-old Okolie’s last two title defenses have gone the 12-round distance. The London native beat Poland’s Michael Cieslak (24-2, 18 KOs) and New Zealand’s David Light (20-1, 12 KOs) unanimously on points in those two bouts, but Billam-Smith has firsthand knowledge of how hard Okolie punches.

“Any fight against Lawrence is dangerous because he can punch and he’s got long levers,” Billam-Smith said, “so you have to take educated risks and you’ve got to work really hard to get the shots off you need to do. That’s what we’ve been doing the whole time.”

Billam-Smith (17-1, 12 KOs) is the number one contender for Okolie’s title, even though second-ranked Richard Riakporhe (16-0, 12 KOs) is the only opponent to beat him. London’s Riakporhe edged Billam-Smith by split decision in a 10-round fight that took place in July 2019 at O2 Arena in London.

Billam-Smith has won eight straight fights since suffering his close loss to Riakporhe.

“I don’t expect him to stand there and trade with me,” Billam-Smith said. “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.”

Shane McGuigan, Billam-Smith’s trainer, used to train Okolie, thus they have a lot of inside knowledge that they can apply to their game plan. The 32-year-old Billam-Smith noted that Okolie, who has been criticized for not being aggressive enough at times, requested a rematch clause in their contracts because he understands this is very well a fight he could lose.

“He asked for a rematch clause,” Billam-Smith said. “He’s got a rematch clause. We’ll see if he wants it after Saturday night. He might blame the weight. He might want to go up to heavyweight. I think he’s a competitive guy. I think he’ll want the rematch.”

Oddsmakers have installed Okolie as a 4-1 favorite entering his fourth title defense. Sky Sports’ coverage of the Okolie-Billam-Smith undercard is set to begin at 7 p.m. BST.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.