Chris Billam-Smith returns against Mateusz Masternak on Dec. 16
News circulated from last week’s WBO convention that Chris Billam-Smith will make the first defense of his WBO cruiserweight title against veteran Mateusz Masternak on December 16. The fight will headline a Boxxer event, which will broadcast on Sky Sports in the U.K.
Former opponent Lawrence Okolie, who yielded the WBO title to Billam-Smith in May, had a rematch clause but it appears he will move in a different direction, at least for now.
In chief support, former European welterweight champ David Avanesyan could face once-beaten Michael McKinson.
Billam-Smith (18-1, 12 knockouts), The Ring’s No. 4-rated cruiserweight, won his first nine fights before tasting defeat via 10-round split decision to compatriot Richard Riakporhe. The Englishman rebounded strongly, collecting the Commonwealth title before claiming the British and European titles by beating Tommy McCarthy (SD 12). Due to the closeness of the first fight, they met in a rematch and Billam-Smith left no doubt, stopping McCarthy in eight rounds.
He followed that by defeating Isaac Chamberlain (UD 12) in front of his home fans and then vacated the EBU title rather than go over old ground against Dylan Bregeon, who he had already defeated via lopsided decision. The 33-year-old vanquished Armend Xhoxhaj (KO 5) before claiming the WBO title by beating Okolie (MD 12) in an ugly fight.
Masternak (47-5, 31 KOs), The Ring’s No. 10-rated cruiserweight, turned professional in 2006. The Polish fighter won the European title by outboxing Juho Haapoja (UD 12) but lost it in his first defense to Grigory Drozd (TKO 11) 10 years ago. Close loses to Youri Kalenga (SD 12) and Johnny Muller (SD 10) bookended a win over former unified cruiserweight kingpin Jean-Marc Mormeck (SD 10). He gave a good account of himself but lost to Tony Bellew (UD 12) for his old European title.
Masternak reeled off a handful of wins between 2016-2018, including a rematch win over Youri Kalenga (TKO 6), but lost a close fight to former WBA titlist Yuniel Dorticos (UD 12) in the opening round of The World Boxing Series. However, the 36-year-old has since won six fights, including besting previously unbeaten Jason Whateley (UD 12) in an IBF title eliminator. He passed up a shot at Ring and IBF ruler Jai Opetaia in favor of this shot at Billam-Smith.
Avanesyan (29-4-1, 17 KOs), The Ring’s No. 7-rated welterweight, made his bones fighting at home in Russia. He beat a shell of former boxing superstar Shane Mosley (UD 12), then pushed Lamont Peterson close, narrowly losing a 12-round decision.
The 35-year-old was stopped by Egidijus Kavaliauskas (TKO 6) but rebounded to win six fights including an on-the-road win over Kerman Lejarraga (TKO 9) to claim the European title. Also took the unbeaten record of talented Josh Kelly (TKO 6). Was knocked out by Terence Crawford (KO 6) when he challenged for the WBO title last December.
McKinson (25-1, 4 KOs) turned professional in 2014. The Brit worked his way up on small hall shows across the country before stepping up and taking the unbeaten records of Luis Alberto Veron (UD 10), Michael Harkin (UD 10) and Chris Kongo (UD 10).
However, the 29-year-old lost for the first time when he stepped up into world class against big-punching Vergil Ortiz (TKO 9). The tricky southpaw has since returned with three wins, including one on the undercard of Okolie-Billam-Smith in May.
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