EDDIE HEARN unveiled his Fight Camp showpiece contests earlier this month and one fight immediately stood out to boxing fans.
There’s a real enthusiasm for the cruiserweight contest between Commonwealth champion Chris Billam-Smith, from Bournemouth, and British and European titlist Tommy McCarthy, from Belfast.
It’s an eye-catching bout between crowd-pleasing boxers that could result in a fight of the year contender.
“I think so,” said the 6ft 3ins 30-year-old Billam-Smith, who has a 12-1 (10) record. “It’s not going to be one-sided. I don’t see it as being all me, especially early on as he’s got quick hands so I’ll have to box him, pick my moments when they do come and I do expect it to be an exciting fight.”
Billam-Smith’s lone loss came at the hands of Richard Riakporhe via split decision in 2019 and he won an entertaining battle with gritty Czeck Vasil Ducar in his last fight in March. He and Ducar had previously been acquainted when both were hired as sparring partners for top cruiserweight Mairis Briedis.
“I knew what Ducar would bring,” continued Chris. “He was out sparring Briedis with me and he’s one of those who would be horrible to spar and he wasn’t great, he was a bit of a punchbag to be honest at times, but with 10 ounce gloves on and the chin he’s got he’s a very hard competitor. He went the distance with [unbeaten Russian Aleksei] Egorov, so I knew he was going to be tough and it was a hard 10 rounds but it was very comfortable in there. I was doing just enough throughout the rounds, I didn’t really ever get out of third gear because I didn’t want to push the engine too much or get caught with something silly on tired legs, I went through the motions and got the win.”
It was another victory for the buzzing camp of trainer Shane McGuigan. Son of Irish legend Barry, Shane has world cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie, has recently begun to work with heavyweight Daniel Dubois, he has Anthony Fowler in the form of his life and lightweight contender Luke Campbell set to return to training.
“It’s been great, myself and Fowler have been ticking away on the same bills and putting in good performances and it’s been fun,” Billam-Smith said of the mood in the camp. “Lawrence winning a world title was obviously huge for him and huge for the gym and a really special night, big Dan has joined and Luke Campbell stuck his head in last week so it’s good.”
And it’s not just the atmosphere, it’s the work. Billam-Smith did some rounds with Dubois before his recent return to the ring against Bogdan Dinu and he regularly spars the awkward and heavy-handed Okolie.
“With a world cruiserweight champion in the gym you can’t ask for better sparring than that,” he admitted.
Billam-Smith has a dream to box in the soccer stadium of his hometown team, Bournemouth AFC. He trains in Kent through the week with McGuigan and goes home at weekends, where he enjoys sea-swimming year-round, even in the frozen January waters.
He also records his own podcast, called The Perfect Athlete, where he talks with leading guests about various points of performance for athletes of all levels to improve.
But on July 31 he faces the well-rounded 18-2 (9) McCarthy at Fight Camp, in Eddie Hearn’s back garden, or Matchroom Square Garden, as it’s been dubbed. It will be in front of a select crowd of around 500 fans paying around £750 to be there on the night.
McCarthy, like Billam-Smith, hasn’t lost since a 2019 defeat to Riakporhe and his other defeat was back in 2016 to decent Matty Askin.
Billam-Smith has plenty of respect for the man whose scalp he hopes will elevate him towards a world title fight.
“I think he’s a talented lad, you don’t win a European title without being a decent fighter,” he said of McCarthy. “He’s got quick hands, he’s got a good boxing IQ and he can punch a bit as well and he showed that in his last fight but I just think with his style and over 12 rounds I’ll be able to show my skillset and get the job done inside the distance.”