WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith and challenger Mateusz Masternak met for the first time today ahead of their clash in December.
The pair were respectful as they formally announced their fight at the Bournemouth International Centre on Sunday, December 10.
It’s a building Billam-Smith has turned into a fortress, following entertaining wins over Isaac Chamberlain and Armend Xhoxhaj, and Billam-Smith will want his fans to make their voices heard against the tough Polish challenger, who is having his first world title fight after almost a decade as a leading contender.
It’s also Masternak’s second contest in the UK, after he pushed Tony Bellew to the wire back in 2015.
“For me, it’s the toughest test of my career to date,” admitted the champion. “I remember him fighting Tony Bellew in what was a nip and tuck fight. He does everything really well. He’s the most rounded fighter I’ve met by a long stretch. Stylistically we are similar in a lot of areas and that’s why it makes for a fantastic fight. Our styles will clash really, really well.”
Billam-Smith, who is trained by Shane McGuigan, last boxed when winning the title against former gym-mate Lawrence Okolie in May in Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium.
“That arena holds the noise so well and you’ll have 3,000 AFC Bournemouth fans in there… it feels like there’s 10 times that in there and it spurs me on and motivates me.”
The bill is on a Sunday as Billam-Smith did not want to coincide with Bournemouth’s away Premier League fixture with Manchester United on the Saturday, and Billam-Smith is hoping to capitalise on the momentum he has built on the South Coast.
“I don’t want to be a flash in the pan,” Billam-Smith, 18-1, said. “I’ve won a world title and I don’t want to let it go.”
Masternak, 47-5, looked relaxed in London today, and he’s excited by his first chance to win a world crown.
“For 17 years I’ve waited for this time to have this opportunity to get a title,” he said. “I’ve won and lost but now is the time I get my dreams for my friends and my country. I’ve waited a long time and I’m ready to take a belt.”
Masternak is respectful of Billam-Smith’s abilities. He has seen several of the champions fights, including the Okolie tussle.
“In his last fight, Chris showed his strong will, that he can change the game plan but he has to challenge my experience and toughness and after the final bell my fans will be happy,” Masternak insisted.
He also hopes that a section of the Polish community in Bournemouth will come out to watch him, but either way he is comfortable boxing in enemy’s territory.
“I expect a big crowd behind him, but I’m ready for it,” Masternak added.
McGuigan said it’s a fight between two boxers who arguably use their toughness too much, but that it will be friendly on the eyes of fight fans.
“He’s extremely seasoned, good workrate, takes a decent shot and he’s got decent power,” McGuigan said of the challenger. “It’s going to be an extremely exciting fight as long as it lasts. He’s incredibly tough, he’s boxed big one punch knockout artists and it’s going to be one of those fights that’s edge of your seat.”
Boxxer promoter Ben Shalom will be hoping Billam-Smith comes through the first of their new three-fight deal, and into the contracted rematch with Okolie.
“This is his big moment,” Shalom said of the champion. “It’s a huge night for Chris and he has another mountain to climb.”
If Billam-Smith is victorious, the plans could be to fight his mandatory in the spring before boxing Okolie in the return back in the stadium in May.