Chris Billam-Smith ready to shine under the bright lights in rematch with Tommy McCarthy
Bournemouth’s European cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith is counting on a repeat victory over Tommy McCarthy before taking aim at the world scene.
Billam-Smith edged McCarthy in a close and hard-fought battle last July and seems want to leave no doubt about who the better fighter is this weekend.
“I guess it’s easier in a way, because you know what to expect to a certain degree,” said the Bournemouth star. “It’s probably easier to prepare in a way, obviously there’s going to be some things that are the same and you’re going to know what you’re up against but then you’ve got to expect some changes from them – but I’d say it’s easier than not know who you’re going to fight.”
Not only has he learned from 12 tough rounds with the talented Irishman, but the Shane McGuigan-trained boxer-puncher feels he has something to prove in the rematch, though not to McCarthy or the critics, but to himself.
“I have, not necessarily because it was a close fight, I think I’ve got something to prove to myself about how I box and that’s not necessarily from the McCarthy fight,” Chris went on. “The last three fights last year were below par performances from myself so for me it’s about getting back to boxing at a higher level than I have been.”
“I think that is his strength,” conceded the champion. “But it’s not a boxer v brawler fight and I think we’ll see that on Saturday. Maybe it will be a more technical fight and I won’t just walk forward and try and break him down but I think it would definitely suit him to have a boxing match as such.”
Having felt the Irishman’s power in the first fight, and having come through it, does he think he can take McCarthy’s best punches?
“It was a good shot in the first round that I felt but other than that I didn’t feel any shots,” Billam-Smith added. “I was momentarily stunned, [but] had my wits about me, he comes in and throws a massive right hook after he lands it and I roll it and come back firing with a left hook and the last five-10 seconds I’m actually the one hitting him on the inside. I’ve been hit harder than that but it was a good shot and he set it up well and I made a mistake, so all credit to him. You can’t look at it as too black and white. I think it was a very good shot but there might have been other shots that he throws better that he throws better that catch you in the right spot and at the end of the day it’s the cruiserweight division so there’s a speed and power element to every boxer who you face in the division. In any fight you’ve got to be aware of that and anyone can hurt you at any given moment, so it’s nice to know I took a good shot but hopefully this time I won’t be taking any!”
While Billam-Smith has beating McCarthy as a short-term goal again, the 31-year-old ‘Gentleman’ has aspirations that stretch beyond his European belt. He’s sparred world class fighters, like Mairis Briedis and stablemate Lawrence Okolie and he wants to compete at that level.
“I think you’re always going to have that in the back of your mind but I think that’s a good thing and a positive where you know that there’s stuff beyond this fight because if there isn’t, it seems like the end in a way, even if you were to win,” he explained. “You’ve got to have goals, long-term goals and short-term goals but none of that other stuff can happen unless you get through your next fight, or else it’s going to be a long time delayed so it’s finding that right mix and I’m very focused on the task at hand.”
McCarthy said he was disappointed not just to lose last time, but to post a sub-par performance. It was the same for Billam-Smith, even in victory.
“I think it’s the same for me,” he added. “I was disappointed with how I boxed and the amount of mistakes I made. I watched it back a couple of times and scored it two rounds to me and that was being harsh to me. I think I showed a few improvements in my last fight [against Dylan Bregeon in November] but for me, in this camp, it’s been the best camp and we’ve done a lot of learning, a lot of adjusting, working on certain areas and certain weaknesses so it should make for a great rematch.”
Last time they boxed, there was only a few hundred fans present at Matchroom HQ. This time there will be thousands inside a raucous Manchester Arena and Billam-Smith reckons he will thrive under the bright lights.
“I think I always box best in arenas,” he concluded. “I boxed Craig Glover in chief support to Callum Smith and John Ryder, my last fight in Sheffield was in ana arena full of people and I seem to box my best in an arena with plenty of people and plenty of noise. Maybe that’s why the [Vasil] Ducar performance [in an almost empty Wembley Arena] was flat and Tommy McCarthy wasn’t as good as I’d liked it to have been. At the end of the day, it’s about concentration whatever level and whatever crowd, but I love fighting in front of a crowd. The reason I got into the sport was the atmosphere because I experienced it for a mate’s fight and I wanted to be part of that so a big crowd is a huge plus.”