We have a local legend in the making, and his name is Chris Billam-Smith! Bournemouth boy Chris recently won the Commonwealth Boxing Championship live on Sky Sports, and this week we sat down with him at C&B Ashley Cross for a long overdue catch up!
It’s also a great chance for those that don’t know Chris, to get to know him, and join his journey to the top…
So, Chris, for those that don’t know you well, tell us a bit about yourself? Where were you born? Where did you go to school? And how did you get into competitive Boxing?
I was actually born in Epsom, Surrey and moved to Bournemouth at 3 years old. I went to school at Stourfield before moving up to Porchester School for boys. I was sport mad as a kid and into everything including football, tennis and even a bit of fencing! My brother first took me along with him to a boxing class as a teenager and I really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t until I started college and met a now great friend of mine, Dean Perkins, that I really got into the sport. I went to watch him in an amateur boxing show, and the atmosphere was electric…I thought ‘I want a piece of that’! Just 10 months later, at 17 years old, I had my first amateur fight.
Who was your boxing inspiration at that time?
It sounds obvious, but I can’t look further than Muhammed Ali as an initial inspiration. As an elite amateur, and then turning professional, it was George Groves. I just loved his style of boxing. Interestingly, I got a call one New Years Eve from Shane McGuigan, asking me to spar with George the following day…. they must have known I was one of only a handful of people that wouldn’t be drinking that night! I was up there the following morning, and that’s how I got my foot in the door with the McGuigan team, sparring David Haye and George. The commitment paid off, and it’s so surreal for me to this day, as I have now become good friends with George. They say don’t meet your idols, but it turned out well for me!
Tell us a little bit about your amateur career? Where did you train?
I started at Poole Amateur Boxing Club, and then approached the local boxing club for a job, Bendall’s Gym, which is owned by former English Middleweight Champion Steve Bendall. He has done a lot for boxing in Bournemouth, which has been great for local talent. He has some exciting plans, and continues to raise the profile of the sport in the area which is great. As an amateur, I competed in numerous ABA Championships, making the finals twice and then two GB Assessments, including one for the Olympic Squad. I just missed out, which was gut-wrenching at the time, but it gave me the push I needed to turn professional. I guess you could call it bitter-sweet! Everything happens for a reason..
Have you found it to be a big step-up since turning professional?
It’s undeniably a huge step-up, not just in quality, but in lifestyle and commitment. I now live in Kent Monday to Friday, away from my fiancé and family during the week. It’s full on, but it does feel like a mini holiday coming back to Bournemouth at the weekends, especially in the summer. I also really appreciate a double bed when I’m home, as I am a 6ft 3inch man in a single bed whilst in camp! The McGuigan Gym is on University of Kent’s campus and we’re in a student house, with shared kitchen. We’ve had students wandering in asking who we are, and if we want to be friends haha…We have to inform them that we’re not students, and that we’re here to get our heads down and train!
Not long into your professional career, and before you won the Commonwealth title, you lost a fight. Tell us a bit about that, what you learned from it, and how you turned it around to spectacularly…
I lost to Richard Riakporhe in a title fight for the WBA Intercontinental belt. It’s a strange one – I actually thought I won the fight, as did many people that watched it. It was a close fight for sure, and maybe my downfall was not winning convincingly enough under the circumstances. It was my first 10-round bout, in an arena that holds 12,000 people, and was also televised on Sky Sports with Matchroom (Eddie Hearn) so a huge step up for me. It was a big occasion that I learnt a lot from, much of which I took into my preparation for my next fight, leading me to win the Commonwealth soon after.
Awesome.. Tell us a bit about your training regime.. what does your average day look like when you’re in camp?
It’s pretty intense! I train twice a day Monday to Friday, and then on the weekends I go for a decent run to prepare my body and mind for the upcoming week. The sessions consist of 1 punching session in the morning and then sprint or circuit training in the afternoon. It’s a 4-hour trip to Kent and back to Bournemouth, so I manage my time well and make every session count.
Can you let us know when we can expect to see you back in action?
Well, my next fight is looking like it will be in the first quarter of 2020, and will be a defence of my Commonwealth title. If all goes to plan, there should be an exciting announcement made VERY soon, so stay tuned!
Can’t wait! If you could name your dream fight, what would it be?
My goal is to bring a big title fight to Bournemouth, and in particular to Dean Court (Vitality Stadium). A televised hometown fight at my local team’s stadium, with myself heading the bill, would be a dream come true! And to have other local professionals which are good friends of mine getting great exposure too…. that’s the goal!
Lastly Chris, what’s your favourite combo in the ring, and more importantly, what’s your favourite combo at C&B!? 🙂
Haha, great question! Well, in the ring, I’d have to say it’s a ‘left to the body, left to the head’.. a dangerous combo! As far as C&B goes, it’s the first place I head to on a Friday night with my fiancé Mia when I get off the train. We usually head to the Winton restaurant, but my combo changes dependent upon whether I’m in camp or not! When I’m in camp, I’ll go for a half BBQ chicken, broccoli and bean, and sweet potato mash – a healthy meal rich in protein. When I’m out of camp, it’s a double chicken wrap, mac and cheese bites, sweet potato fries, and an oreo milkshake – and that’s just for starters!
A word from C&B HQ: Chris, congratulations on your successful start to your professional boxing career. You’re a great ambassador for the sport, and an inspiration to many in the area. Have a fantastic year – we’ll be the first to buy tickets for your next fight!