Chris Billam-Smith dominates Richard Riakporhe to retain world title in Selhurst Park revenge mission

And still: Chris Billam-Smith remains the WBO world cruiserweight champion (Steven Paston/PA Wire)
And still: Chris Billam-Smith remains the WBO world cruiserweight champion (Steven Paston/PA Wire)

Chris Billam-Smith produced arguably a career-best performance to gain revenge on Richard Riakporhe and retain his WBO cruiserweight world title at Selhurst Park.

‘The Gentleman’ delivered a dominant display on enemy territory at the home of Crystal Palace to successfully avenge his only professional defeat to date in Saturday night’s blockbuster all-British rematch that was five years in the making.

While he was narrowly edged out by the big-hitting Riakporhe in a thrilling contest in the summer of 2019, this time Billam-Smith gave ‘the Midnight Train’ no chance whatsoever - bar a brief flurry in the ninth round - to unleash his devastating power in a wonderfully controlled and measured performance that trainer Shane McGuigan claimed would likely be remembered as perhaps his greatest.

The extent of his dominance on the night was not accurately reflected in the judges’ final scores of 116-111, 115-112 and 115-112, but the Bournemouth favourite was nevertheless still able to claim a fully deserved unanimous decision win that will now see him set his sights on a lucrative showdown in America and a chance at unification against the likes of new WBA cruiserweight champion Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez of Mexico.

A clash with Australia’s IBF champion Jai Opetaia has also been mooted next for Billam-Smith, who has now successfully defended the WBO belt he claimed on an unforgettable night against friend and former training partner Lawrence Okolie at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium last year twice, having forced the eighth-round retirement of Poland’s former European champion Mateusz Masternak with a far more low-key display in December.

But this was on a different level entirely from the affable ‘CBS’, whose professional boxing record now stands at 20-1.

Riakporhe, meanwhile, will feel that he blew his first and possibly only shot at a world title as he slumped to a maiden pro defeat at the home of his beloved Crystal Palace.

Despite a promising first round in which he showcased the power of his ramrod jab, the south Londoner just could not find any semblance of rhythm or momentum thereafter as he fell to 17-1 on the biggest night of his career.

On Saturday night’s Boxxer undercard, Tokyo 2020 Olympic silver medalist Ben ‘The Surgeon’ Whittaker claimed the vacant IBF International light-heavyweight title with a typically one-sided points win over Nigeria’s Ezra Arenyeka in a feisty co-main event.

Jack Massey outpointed Isaac Chamberlain in the fight of the night to take the vacant European and Commonwealth cruiserweight belts, while an out-of-sorts Dan Azeez was unable to bounce back from his first career loss at the hands of Joshua Buatsi in February as he was held to a shock draw by Croatian veteran Hrvoje Sep.

Francesca Hennessy also continued the impressive start to her professional career by outpointing the durable Dorota Norek.

In the non-televised portion of the bill, Deevorn Miller claimed a somewhat bizarre first-round victory over Edwin Mosquera after the Colombian did not continue after being hit round the back of the head.

Hornchurch middleweight Mitchell Frearson claimed a decision win against Marco Simmonds, while budding heavyweight talent Lewie Pochetty provided an eye-catching first-round knockout of Wales’ Tobie Vermeire.