Richard Riakporhe maintains belief that Chris Billam-Smith is on the decline ahead of world title rematch

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RICHARD RIAKPORHE continues to believe that Chris Billam-Smith is showing signs of deterioration ahead of their rematch on Saturday night (June 15).

The two Brits meet at Selhurst Park – the home of Crystal Palace Football Club – with Billam-Smith’s WBO cruiserweight title on the line. Five years ago it was Riakporhe who got the nod in a non-title bout over 10 rounds beating Billam-Smith on a split decision.

Twelve-round contests are a different beast, however, and the fighter themselves are a far different proposition to what they were in 2019. Since then Billam-Smith, 19-1 (13 KOs), has won 10 out of 10 including that monumental victory against Lawrence Okolie to win the WBO title 13 months ago.

The Billam-Smith fighting style may start off poised and in control but normally it doesn’t take too long for the 33-year-old to engage in a battle of will, determination and durability. When those unteachable qualities have seen him over the line he has needed to absorb the firepower coming in the opposite direction to win. Some believe the amount he has taken is to his detriment and there are signs that he may be on the slide. Something that Saturday night’s title challenger agrees with.

Riakporhe believes the champion may have seen better days. Pic: Lawrence Lustig/Boxxer

Speaking at today’s final press conference Riakporhe, 17-0 (13 KOs), said, “To be fair I’ve never really watched Chris. I’ve been at his fights but I was more watching it as a boxing fan. And sometimes I’ll go and see comments about his performance. To say the least it isn’t really good, a lot of people mentioned his deterioration.

“That’s when I thought let me see what this deterioration is about. When I watch the fights back from a technical analysis I’m seeing a lot of gaps. It’s a normal wear and tear. When you’re taking too many shots and gifted with a chin like CBS, it’s science, you can’t avoid it – can’t stay in our prime forever.”

Billam-Smith dismissed the very thought that he is on the decline.

“My answer to deterioration is he’s just hoping for it and that’s what he’s hoping for. There’s no decline and you’ll see that on Saturday night,” he replied.

While the decline of ‘The Gentleman’ isn’t a proven fact one thing that can’t be denied is the difference in experience between the two. The champion is making the second defence of his world title and headlined his own stadium show – at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium last year – along with indoor venue events in his home town.

The champion suited and booted but rejects any claims he is on the decline. Pic: Lawrence Lustig/Boxxer

Billam-Smith is clearly aware of this and spoke about the subject when questioned by host Andy Scott earlier today.

“All the experience of world championship fights I’ve had… the camps, being on those big shows, headlining all those shows, [I’ll] use that experience and go in and perform. The experience is everything before going in to that stadium fight where I’d luckily headlined shows back home and had that big occasion which was a great experience going into that stadium fight.”

South London’s Riakporhe will be the home favourite on Saturday night with the lion’s share of support at the home of the football club he supports – Crystal Palace. It’s a new experience altogether but one which he is relishing.

“I’m very excited,” he said.

“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a very long time and I’m just hungry. I’m ready to challenge and take this title and challenge for more titles.”

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