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Chris Billam-Smith says Richard Riakporhe avoided world title fight against Jai Opetaia

Watch Richard Riakporhe and Chris Billam-Smith trade words on the latest edition of The Gloves Are Off on Sky Sports Action from 10pm on Sunday; Riakporhe challenges Billam-Smith for the WBO cruiserweight world title live on Sky on Saturday June 15

Chris Billam-Smith and Richard Riakporhe face off
Image: Chris Billam-Smith and Richard Riakporhe face off on Saturday

Chris Billam-Smith has dismissed Richard Riakporhe's claims the pair enter Saturday's world title fight as equals, and questioned why his cruiserweight rival did not take on fellow world champion Jai Opetaia.

Speaking on The Gloves Are Off, Riakporhe praised the success of Billam-Smith in becoming WBO cruiserweight world champion with last year's victory over Lawrence Okolie.

He went on to suggest Billam-Smith had been "undermining" him with certain remarks in the build-up to Saturday's world title fight at Selhurst Park - live on Sky Sports.

The Gloves Are Off

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Watch the best moments from Riakporhe's win over Billam-Smith by split decision in 2019

"You've done really well and I'll give you your flowers," said Riakporhe. "You know what, if you want roses, I'll give you that. If you want a white rose, I can give you that too. And I deserve flowers as well. So what flowers you going to give me, Chris?

"In some of the interviews that I hear you do, you undermine me.

"I'm challenging for a world title, you're the champion. We're pretty much level."

Among the prominent debates heading into the fight has been which of the two has improved the most since Riakporhe handed Billam-Smith his only career defeat back in 2019.

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Speaking on Toe2Toe, Ellie Scotney discusses how Billam-Smith has been looking in training and believes he has what it takes to seek revenge against Riakporhe

Billam-Smith deems his ascent to world champion status as evidence, along with what he believes is a superior fight resume.

"I've said that you've improved in some areas, but really you haven't stepped up," said Billam-Smith.

"We're not level. Because I've won a world title and defended it. You've avoided a world.

"You were mandatory for Jai Opetaia, were you not? So why has that fight not happened before that?

"The fact is the fight didn't happen. You haven't fought for a world title until now, so up to this point, who's had a better career?"

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Billiam-Smith engaged in a war of words with challenger Riakporhe as the pair faced-off ahead of their June 15 bout

Riakporhe had previously been a leading contender to face Opetaia, who reigns as the current IBF cruiserweight world champion after his unanimous decision win over Mairis Briedis earlier this month.

He insists, though, he would never have passed on the opportunity to fight for a world title.

"You shouldn't speak on things that you don't know," said Riakporhe. "You don't understand about the business side of boxing. It was out of my hands.

"Those who know know because they were involved. I never turned down no fight.

"Me personally, I say we're equal. We're equal. The only thing that separates you is you winning that title. But we're here at this current moment where we're back again."

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Riakporhe made a chilling prediction after it was announced he would face Billam-Smith at Selhurst Park

Billam-Smith will be defending his world title for the second time since dethroning Okolie, having ousted Mateusz Masternak in the eighth round last December.

Once the hunter, he is now the hunted - and with the likes of Opetaia in his own sights down the line.

"I love that if there's more pressure on me, then brilliant," said Billam-Smith. "I said that last year there was no more pressure in my career than that fight [against Okolie], so I loved it and I loved the pressure.

"And for me there's a huge amount of pressure on me in this fight because there's a legacy at stake.

"I think he's a massive step up from where he's been in terms of headlining, the type of opponent, the experience that his opponents have had in the past and where they're at in their career.

"This is a very, very hungry version of me. You never have a complete fighter, but I'm a much better fighter than I was last time, that's for sure, and much better than anyone he's faced. I think it is a big, big leap in levels."

Only 30 per cent of tickets remain for Billam-Smith vs Riakporhe. Get your tickets now via Boxxer.com.

Richard Riakporhe challenges Chris Billam-Smith for the WBO cruiserweight world title live on Sky on Saturday June 15. You can also stream the fight through NOW TV.

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