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Chris Billam-Smith beats Richard Riakporhe to retain WBO cruiserweight world title at Selhurst Park

Chris Billam-Smith defeats Richard Riakporhe via unanimous decision to retain WBO cruiserweight world title at Selhurst Park on Saturday night, five years on from suffering his only career defeat to Riakporhe in July 2019

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Chris Billam-Smith defended his WBO cruiserweight world title against Richard Riakporhe with a unanimous decision win at Selhurst Park

Chris Billam-Smith denied Richard Riakporhe a dream homecoming as he beat his British rival by unanimous decision to enact revenge and successfully defend his WBO cruiserweight world title at Selhurst Park. 

The reigning champion delivered a calculated, controlled performance to nullify the power of his opponent and spoil the Riakporhe party at the home of Crystal Palace.

It was not only a title defence but sweet payback for 'The Gentleman', who five years earlier had suffered the only defeat of his career to Riakporhe in a tight split decision. This time, he left no doubt, taking it 116-111, 115-112, 115-112 on the cards.

A prominent talking point during the build-up to the fight had been which of the two had improved more since their first outing, Billam-Smith adamant he had grown into a completely different competitor since 2019. Riakporhe learned how right he was.

"Very satisfying," he said. "I'm really pleased with the performance.

"Experience, speed and the gameplan" made the difference, he explained.

"Forget all the build-up," he continued. "I've got a lot of respect for Richard he's a great fighter, he just needed a little bit more experience and he'll learn from that."

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Billam-Smith heaped praise on his 'master' trainer Shane McGuigan after they stuck to the game plan to beat Riakporhe

Riakporhe cut a composed figure amid the chaos as he worked behind his jab during the early exchanges while finding his range with two dangerous looking right hands, the noise of which would prompt gasps from the anticipant crowd.

Billam-Smith settled into his own rhythm in the second round with a first real flurry to force Riakporhe into tying him up at the ropes, which soon became an early theme as the pair continued to find themselves tangled on the inside.

Image: Billam-Smith celebrates after retaining his title

A mis-timed right hand from Riakporhe served as a warning as it threatened an opening for Billam-Smith, whose right-hand reply was evaded.

Riakporhe underlined his power with a firm left hook as the two backed onto the ropes, the fight falling into a slightly ugly stagnant phase with neither man able to unlock a meaningful combination.

The war of attrition moved into the fourth when the two traded brutal body shots, before Billam-Smith reminded of his toughness while brushing through a right hook.

Billam-Smith began to land the clean shots behind a sharper jab while Riakporhe appeared the more hesitant of the two, seemingly in wait of one decisive shot to breach his opponent's championed grit.

By round seven it was Billam-Smith firmly in control as the busier, more accurate fighter with Riakporhe beginning to look frustrated with how the contest had been panning out for him as another intended assault in the corner came up shy.

Billam-Smith strengthened his grip on the fight in the eighth when he unleashed a hook to rock Riakporhe, who was left hanging over the corner of the ring. 'The Midnight Train' sought to respond with a huge right hand, only to again be reminded of Billam-Smith's granite chin.

Knowing he was behind, Riakporhe began to let his hands go in the closing rounds and connected with a crushing right only to see his momentum stalled by an accidental low blow from the challenger.

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Andy Scott and John Dennen deliver their verdict on Billam-Smith's win over Riakporhe and wonder how far he can go in the sport

Champion's experience soon told as Billam-Smith closed out what might be deemed a career-best performance with two clinical final rounds, as much being sealed for good when Riakporhe was deducted a point for the use of his head in a clench.

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