Under the blazing sun on the beach in Bournemouth, Chris Billam-Smith weighed in for his defence of the European and Commonwealth cruiserweight titles against Isaac Chamberlain, live on Sky Sports on Saturday.
Hometown supporters clustered round the stage on the sand to cheer Billam-Smith onto the scales. As serious a business as tomorrow’s fight will be, he couldn’t help a smile straying across his face. This is what he’s always wanted.
“For me I got into sport because of atmosphere. I watched my mate box as an amateur,” he said. “Everyone was chanting his name. I remember stopping chanting and thinking ‘I’d love to be a part of that atmosphere and have all of that atmosphere there for you’.
“So we’re about 14 and a half years on now, in my hometown, the whole town’s behind me, the football team, everyone in the town. So that for me is the reason I started the sport. It’s only going to bring me on and help me produce a great performance.
“You hear the sound now, it’s going to be five times that tomorrow night and there’s no way I can let them down.
“With the home crowd behind me, it’s just going to be relentless in there. And I’m going to get the job done inside the distance.”
Chamberlain though didn’t mind the sound of the crowd or the final head-to-head with tomorrow night’s opponent. He has come a long way from the fighter he was when he lost to Lawrence Okolie in 2018. His promoter Mick Hennessy insists the time Chamberlain spent isolated but sparring and training in America has hardened him, has turned him “into a beast”.
Chamberlain, who weighed 14st 4lbs, said, “I can’t wait. Thank you for everyone coming out. It was an amazing atmosphere here. I just can’t wait to do the business.
“Tomorrow we get the win.”
The stakes are high. Both men want to use a victory to propel themselves towards a world title shot. The loser, though, will slip back down to domestic level and out of contention.
“Every fight’s a risk,” Billam-Smith, right on the 14st 4lbs limit as well, reflected. “Boxing’s one of a kind, every fight’s a must-win whether that’s your first or your 40th fight it doesn’t matter, every fight’s a must-win. Otherwise, you have to start again most of the time. Every fight’s a risk in boxing. But that’s what brings the highest highs.”
Billam-Smith is determined to use the atmosphere of his hometown fans to drive himself on.
“It’ll be high energy. It’ll be high intensity,” he said. “There’ll be calculated aggression and that’s what I do. I think that’s one of my best attributes is the aggression and the intensity. So I’ve got to keep using that and play to my strengths.”
All that’s left for them now is to fight.
Also on the bill exciting Olympic silver medallist Ben Whittaker will make his professional debut. He weighed in at 12st 8lbs 11oz with Greg O’Neill, his opponent for tomorrow’s scheduled six-rounder, 12st 6lbs 3oz.
Whittaker is one of three Tokyo Olympians on the bill. Super-heavyweight bronze-medallist Frazer Clarke, at six foot six inches tall and 19st 8lbs, is a big man himself. But he has a large opponent for his second pro fight in 22st 1lb Argentine Ariel Esteban Bracamonte.
Their GB team-mate Caroline Dubois has her third professional contest tomorrow. After weighing in at 9st 11lbs, she subjected her next opponent, Happy Daudi (9st 10lbs 5oz) to an icy staredown. All will be looking to impress at the Bournemouth International Centre.
Power-punchers on the undercard include Southampton’s Joe Pigford (10st 13lbs), who boxes Raphael King (10st 11lbs), and hot prospect Hassan Azim (10st 9lbs 5oz), who can expect to be tested by Jacob Quinn (10st 8lbs 5oz).
The biggest fight in the history of women’s boxing – Claressa Shields vs Savannah Marshall – is live on Sky Sports on Saturday, September 10. Be part of history and buy tickets for the London showdown here.