Chris Billam-Smith beats Mateusz Masternak to defend WBO cruiserweight title

  • By Bobbie Jackson
  • BBC Sport

Image source, LAWRENCE LUSTIG

Image caption,

Chris Billam-Smith (right) has won 13 of his fights inside the distance

Briton Chris Billam-Smith retained his WBO cruiserweight title as Mateusz Masternak retired in Bournemouth.

The contest was waved off by referee John Latham two seconds into round eight after Pole Masternak sustained an injury.

Billam-Smith struggled to match Masternak early on, but his work on the body in round seven paid dividends.

It was Billam-Smith’s first defence of his title.

He extended his winning streak to 10 and his overall record boasts 19 victories from 20 fights. He has lost only to Richard Riakporhe in 2019, and a rematch with his British rival could be next.

On the potential of facing Riakporhe, who was at the Bournemouth International Centre, Billam-Smith told Sky Sports: “I’ve never shied away from a fight.

“Me and Richard boxed in our 10th fight. We had similar records – it was a risk for both of us.

“It will be amazing, the rematch. I’m much better than that. He might look at that and fancy it.”

Champion delivers for loyal following

Masternak made the walk first and he was not without support with small pockets of Polish fans dotted around the arena.

Billam-Smith, wearing black shorts with gold trim, looked steely faced as he made the walk down the short ramp with ‘Hail’ by Kano, who was in attendance, playing over the speakers as the crowd rose to their feet in support of the home fighter.

“He’s one of our own, he’s one of our own”, was belted out by Billam-Smith’s loyal supporters just after the first bell rang and, buoyed by that backing, he stepped forward and found joy from the outset.

Billam-Smith was the aggressor, constantly forcing Masternak on to the ropes in round one and using his larger frame to lean on his rival in an attempt to drain the energy, although his eagerness to close the distance saw him walk on to a looping right in round two as Masternak started to settle in.

Trainer Shane McGuigan urged Billam-Smith to get behind his jab when he returned to the corner and he put those words into action during round three, finding his range and then closing the distance with greater caution before unloading with combinations.

By round four, the champion was starting to swell around the left eye and Masternak began targeting that area, with his right hand finding a home regularly.

Rhythm was an issue for Billam-Smith and he went back to basics for round five, tucking his chin down on his chest and engaging in the clinch in the hope of landing some short shots in close.

Masternak was the more mobile of the two as the fight reached the midway point, shifting around the ring trying to create angles for his attacks with Billam-Smith looking a little flat-footed.

Billam-Smith started to add more variety in his attacks through round seven and his work on the body came good with Masternak showing signs that he was running out of steam.

It ended in confusing circumstances as Masternak was slow to get up from his stool for round eight and, after complaints from Billam-Smith over the delay, Latham waved the bout off.

Masternak appeared to have suffered an injury to his ribs as a result of Billam-Smith’s decision to change his game plan.

“I knew I had hurt him as he slowed right down. That ended the fight,” Billam-Smith said.

“I believe I would have got to him. I started finding the jab. It was a shame he pulled out as I believe I would have showed maturity.

“I respected him so much in the build-up. I said he would be my hardest fight to date and he proved it. I made it hard for myself; I was trying too hard to land one big shot.”

Price on track for world title shot

Image source, LAWRENCE LUSTIG

Image caption,

Lauren Price became the first Welsh boxer, male or female, to win an Olympic gold medal at the 2020 Games in Tokyo

Earlier in the night, Britain’s Olympic gold medallist Lauren Price made easy work of Italy’s Silvia Bortot, winning on points after eight rounds to cap off a fine year.

Welshwoman Price walked out to Love Inc’s ‘You’re a Superstar’ and she looked every bit of that as she extended her unbeaten record to six. She has four victories in 2023, and this win sets her on a trajectory towards a world title.

Price is keen to face the winner of Natasha Jonas v Mikaela Mayer, who meet on 20 January, when Jonas puts her IBF welterweight title on the line.

Olympic champion Price told Sky Sports: “I’m improving each fight and that’s what I want. I keep getting better and better.

“I believe I beat Tash and Mayer and that’s what I want in 2024.”

Reference

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