Billam-Smith shatters Riakporhe's Selhurst dream in revenge win

Chris Billam-Smith sticks his tongue out in celebration
Chris Billam-Smith was beaten by Richard Riakporhe in 2019 [Getty Images]

Briton Chris Billam-Smith retained his WBO cruiserweight title with a dominant points win over compatriot Richard Riakporhe at Selhurst Park.

After an evening of rain in London, the downpour stopped just in time for a career-best performance from Billam-Smith.

The Bournemouth fighter set the pace and edged the scoring in a scrappy affair which on occasions came alive towards the latter rounds.

Londoner Riakporhe – fighting in front of 15,000 home fans in an open-air stadium – was guilty of excessive holding throughout and deducted a point in the 12th.

Billam-Smith, 33, was awarded a unanimous decision with scores of 116-111, 115-112 and 115-112.

He gained revenge for a points defeat by Riakporhe in 2019 – the only blemish on the champion's 21-fight record.

"That was closer than I thought," Billam-Smith told Sky Sports. "The right man won. Rich is a great fighter."

'The Gentleman' said he is now targeting unification fights and would welcome an away day to Las Vegas next.

Riakporhe, 34, suffered a first career defeat in his 18th pro fight, with his dream of winning a world title at the home of his beloved Crystal Palace Football Club shattered.

No home comfort for Riakporhe

Challenger Riakporhe walked to the ring donning a white robe sporting Palace's red and blue colours, with the Premier League side's manager Oliver Glasner in attendance.

Billam-Smith has enjoyed great success fighting in front of his Bournemouth faithful, but was competing on away soil for the first time in five bouts and had to endure jeers as he marched to the middle.

He set a fast pace as both boxers - despite having already shared 10 rounds - tried to figure each other out in a quiet opening.

Riakporhe was warned for holding, which became the story of the night, a low blow and use of the head in the third.

Billam-Smith connected with a right hook in the fourth and was edging the rounds with his tidier work.

Celebrities from the world of music - Ellie Goulding, rappers Kano and Tinie Tempah - watched at ringside but the fight took time to live up to its hype.

It unexpectedly came alive in the eighth. Riakporhe was hurt by a counter-left hook but responded with a thudding right before Billam-Smith ended the round on top.

Perhaps aware he needed a stoppage, the aggressive Riakporhe many expected joined the party in the ninth.

A swinging right knocked Billam-Smith's gumshield out and the champion was backed into the corner by an onslaught of left and right punches.

But the success was short-lived and having been deducted a point, Riakporhe cut a deflated figure as he walked back to his corner at the final bell.

'Levels above' - big nights await Billam-Smith

Richard Riakporhe covers up from a punch from Chris Billam-Smith
Riakporhe was the challenger but was given home advantage at Selhurst Park [Getty Images]

Big nights now await Billam-Smith in a lucrative division.

Australia's Jai Opetaia is the IBF champion and Mexican Gilberto Ramirez holds the WBA 'Super' belt.

"Just never, ever, ever bet against Chris Billam-Smith," said promoter Ben Shalom.

"Every single time he comes through - and he was levels above."

Riakporhe had turned his life around after being stabbed as a teenager, and only took up boxing aged 19.

And despite a defeat in his maiden world-title shot, he has already shown an unrelenting desire to succeed both in life and sport.

His tactics were rather peculiar in South London, but the journey will continue for the fighter known as 'The Midnight Train'.

Whittaker showboats & Azeez in surprise draw

Ben Whittaker evades a punch from Ezra Arenyeka
Ben Whittaker won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics [Getty Images]

There was no cover for press or fans at the open-air stadium as thundery showers fell throughout the day and into the evening before the main event.

Concerned organisers handed out ponchos and also kept an eye on the wind speed - the big screens above the ring were to be dismantled if speeds exceeded 30mph.

But the rain halted and wind eased in time for the appearance of flamboyant light-heavyweight Ben Whittaker.

The 27-year-old was serenaded to the ring by a string orchestra before his dominant points win over Ezra Arenyeka.

Whittaker, who has become a social media hit for his showboating, quite literally, found a dance partner as both men began shaking their hips and shuffling their shoulders in the first round.

It turned a little ugly when Arenyeka appeared to headbutt Whittaker at the end of the sixth and was then deducted a point for a blatent elbow in the seventh.

Whittaker might have guilty of not putting combinations together but easily extended his record to eight pro wins.

Earlier, cruiserweight Jack Massey outpointed Isaac Chamberlain in a tight contest for the vacant European belt but light-heavyweight Dan Azeez's night did not go quite to plan after the Briton drew with Hrvoje Sep.

The Lewisham fighter suffered a first career loss to Joshua Buatsi in February and looked rusty in a tough eight-rounder against the Croatian.

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