Chris Billam-Smith and the making of British boxing’s most unlikely world

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This was never meant to be.

Some fighters seem almost pre-ordained to be champion. Perhaps it’s the confidence, the style of their boxing, as well as an amateur track record. For Chris Billam-Smith, though, that was never the case.

When Billam-Smith first joined Shane McGuigan’s gym, he was, as he put it, “very much the runt of the litter”.

Chris Billam-Smith says a rematch with Lawrence Okolie could be on the cards, followed by a possible unification bout with Richard Riakporhe.

At that time George Groves was the WBA super-middleweight world champion and one of the best fighters in the country. Undisputed champions in the making Josh Taylor and Chantelle Cameron were in the early stages of their outstanding careers at McGuigan’s gym.

As an amateur Billam-Smith had been good but not stellar. He first reached an Elite final in 2013 but despite a second finals appearance three years later never won the national championships. Despite several trials for the Great Britain squad, he was never selected.

He was never meant to get as far as he has.

When he turned professional he harboured his own ambitions, but expectation for him was not high.

Working his way through small hall shows and the occasional undercard slot he suffered a 2019 loss to Richard Riakporhe. That could have consigned him to domestic level.

Speaking on the Toe2Toe podcast, Callum Smith decribed Chris Billam-Smith’s victory over Lawrence Okolie in front of his home fans as a ‘fairy-tale’.

But he moved forward. Today he has won British, Commonwealth, European and now world championships.

“I don’t think anyone else believed I could do it, but you’ve got to believe in yourself when no one else will,” Billam-Smith told Sky Sports.

He pinpoints perseverance, consistency and being “coachable” as the keys to that unlikely success.

But he also credits the work of trainer Shane McGuigan, who has guided him through from his professional debut to where he is now.

“Consistency, perseverance and just having that belief in in the process and not wanting everything straight away,” he said.

“You can be coachable but if you haven’t got a phenomenal coach then you’re getting taught the wrong things. I’ve obviously got a phenomenal coach, a phenomenal team around me and the standard in the gym is very much world champion or nothing. There’s no in-between.

Chris Billam-Smith’s trainer Shane McGuigan says there’s no animosity towards his ex-fighter Lawrence Okolie and targets a fight with Richard Riakporhe.

“That’s just always the goal for everyone who walks through the door in the gym and trains under Shane. Some people might not reach it, but we all reach for the very, very top, just staying consistent with it all and doing all the little one percents, looking for edges here and there.

“Still to this day I’m finding new ways to train and new ways to recover and things to help me…

Read More: Chris Billam-Smith and the making of British boxing’s most unlikely world 2023-09-19 22:36:08

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