World champion Lawrence Okolie is to fight Chris Billam-Smith on May 27 at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, live on Sky Sports.
Okolie is the WBO cruiserweight champion and will step into enemy territory to put his world title on the line in former training partner Billam-Smith’s home town.
The pair trained together at Shane McGuigan’s gym, and Okolie is now working under new trainer SugarHill Steward, making a fight with the highly-rated Billam-Smith possible.
Billam-Smith had previously confirmed he would be fighting at the Vitality Stadium in late May and has now vowed to become a world champion on home turf.
“Fighting someone I know very well for a world title is a very exciting opportunity, he said. “I’m elated to be fighting at the home of my beloved AFC Bournemouth in front of my phenomenal fans. On May 27 I will repay them by winning a world title”
Okolie last defended his title when he dominated mandatory challenger David Light in Manchester last month. With little time to recover, he will have to go straight back into training camp, but it’s a challenge the cruiserweight champion welcomed.
“I’m pumped, I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’ve just come off a successful defence where I won all 12 rounds against an unknown but tough competitor, a national champion in his homeland.
“Now weeks later I am going in against a known tough boxer, a top 10 ranked boxer, former European champion and current Commonwealth champion Chris Billam-Smith.
“Not many fighters make back to back defences in such a short space of time. Not many pick the hardest fights available to them, but that’s what I’m about.
“Chris, I love you, but I have to get the KO in this one.”
Billam-Smith has fast acquired a reputation for being one of the most exciting fighters in Britain. He has won British, Commonwealth and European cruiserweight titles. With an impassioned crowd in Bournemouth roaring him on, in 2022 he beat Isaac Chamberlain in a Fight of the Year contender and levelled Armend Xhoxhaj to record a spectacular knockout win.
That set him up for a world title challenge and when Okolie, taking scarcely any time to recover from his last fight, came with the offer of a “dream night” in his hometown, Billam-Smith did not hesitate.
“Let’s do this,” Billam-Smith declared as soon as he saw Okolie’s callout.
Okolie is a big cruiserweight, a heavy-handed puncher with long reach. In his last fight against Light he showed just how difficult he would be for any cruiserweight to beat.
But Billam-Smith has demonstrated in his career how effective he can be when attacking opponents on the inside and, in trainer McGuigan, has in his corner arguably the man most qualified to devise a plan to defeat Okolie.
The May 27 undercard will also see Chamberlain challenge unbeaten Mikael Lawal for the British cruiserweight title.