Chris Billam-Smith got his home fight in Bournemouth, England, and he, the fans, and Isaac Chamberlain made it all worth it for everyone.
In front of a raucous crowd, Billam-Smith retained his European and Commonwealth cruiserweight titles on unanimous decision scores of 117-111 from all three judges. Bad Left Hook had it a bit closer at 115-113 for Billam-Smith, but the official scores are fair enough.
Billam-Smith (16-1, 11 KO) and Chamberlain (14-2, 8 KO) put on an outstanding action fight, going at it from round one through the very end. There were no huge dramatic moments, but it was consistent action throughout, little ebbs and flows that would see Billam-Smith take the momentum, Chamberlain find some success, and then back-and-forth from there.
It may have indeed been the home crowd that carried Billam-Smith through, as the 31-year-old “Gentleman” looked pretty spent in the latter third or so of the bout, but he just kept pushing at key moments, and would put in useful pressure near the end of most rounds, which may have nicked a couple more his way than I saw, and perhaps rightly so.
In the 12th and final round, he had to really hang on, as the 28-year-old Chamberlain gave it everything he had looking for a stoppage. There was a moment where it seemed Billam-Smith might be going, but he was able to dig in yet again and hold on.
“Isaac’s a warrior. I knew he was. I knew when to just ease off and go again, give him a little bit of success, and then take it away from him and break his heart,” Billam-Smith said. “The only way (Chamberlain) wins this fight is my mindset (slipping), and my mindset is incredible.”
Billam-Smith didn’t make any specific call-outs on world titleholders — and he and Lawrence Okolie are gym-mates, so unless that changes, that won’t happen. Instead, he simply said he’d keep putting in the work.
“I’ve got learning to do to beat all those guys, but I will learn, and I will get it done,” he said.
Chamberlain also received a standing ovation from the crowd, who had of course booed him on his walk into the ring.
“It wasn’t my night. A lot of ring rust and I haven’t done 12 rounds before, but I’ll get back in the gym as soon as possible,” he said. “This is my first-ever 12-rounder, but hey, man, I’m coming back. I’ll be back.”
Chamberlain said he would “100 percent” return to Bournemouth for a rematch down the line.
Ben Whittaker TKO-2 Greg O’Neill
Sky hyped the hell out of Whittaker’s pro debut, and he showed pretty much every aspect of his personality in the ring in three minutes, 27 seconds.
Whittaker’s stoppage win here was expected, O’Neill (6-7-1, 1 KO) was a fine choice for a pro debut opponent, and he gave his best trying to land on Whittaker, but it just didn’t really work out.
In short on Whittaker:
- Silver medal in Tokyo, legit light heavyweight prospect.
- 25, though; not old, obviously, but closer to finished product than many who are making a pro debut.
- Trained by SugarHill Steward, so he definitely looked to get a very “pro-style” trainer out of the gates, which I think is a really good idea for him. Whittaker has also said a lot how well they’ve gotten along already, how well they mesh.
- Arrogant. Partially for show, I think — and as a mental game — but partially for real. He has supreme confidence in his ability.
- On that note, he will not be an easy fan favorite — but if he wins and he backs up all that extra personality, he will gain fans and make some big money. People love a winner, and they love a stylish fighter when they win.
- The other side of that: If he flames out early, his antics are begging to be badly mocked.
Keep him on your radar. It’s clear Boxxer and Sky have high hopes for Whittaker, they have reason to do so, and he just might deliver on it all. He’s very talented, he will get every chance to make his mark on the sport.
More highlights and results
- Frazer Clarke TKO-2 Ariel Esteban Bracamonte: While Bracamonte (11-9, 6 KO) is hardly any great shakes, he is a tough, solidly experienced battler who comes to fight. So give Clarke (2-0, 2 KO) some credit for the early stoppage win here, he earned it. Bracamonte is a guy who looks as over-matched as the A-side makes him look, and the A-side did the job in this one. There will remain questions about how far Clarke, 30, can go as a pro, but the man can fight.
- Hassan Azim PTS-6 Jacob Quinn: Azim (4-0, 2 KO) tried really hard for a first round stoppage, and got a count on Quinn (4-2, 0 KO) within the first 20 seconds or so. But despite his push to finish early, it didn’t happen, and then he did have to labor just a hair through the rest of the fight. He looked fine, definitely a cut above Quinn, who hadn’t fought in nearly two years, but he probably could have looked steadier and sharper without that ultimately failed rush to stop things in the opening frame.
- Caroline Dubois TKO-3 Happy Daudi: A really easy win for Dubois, who goes to 3-0 (2 KO) by dominating and forcing the stoppage. Daudi (11-11-1, 6 KO) had nothing for Dubois, who looked sharp and focused on the task at hand. The broadcast got into a bit, but I can be more blunt: It’s going to be tricky developing Dubois, as it is just about any talented young women’s prospect, because there is just no in-between field that separates bad fighters and good fighters on that side of the sport. There is no depth in almost any division. There are some good fighters and then the quality falls off a cliff. So like everyone who comes along with real potential, Dubois will just stay busy, keep working in the gym, and the hope will be she’s ready when it’s time to face someone good, because in women’s boxing you jump from rung two to the top on that “ladder climb.”