By Barry Holbrook: George Groves was impressed the upset twelve round majority decision victory for Chris Billiam-Smith (18-1, 12 KOs) over WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie (19-1, 14 KOs) last Saturday night at the Vitality Stadium, Bournemouth, England
Like a lot of people, Groves found the 112-112 score turned in by judge Benjamin Rodriguez as “bizarre” and difficult to understand. The other two judges scored it for Billiam-Smith, 116-107 and 115-108.
Whatever chance that Okolie had of holding onto his WBO title, he blew it by being knocked down in the 4th, 10th, and 11th rounds and losing points for excessive clinching in the 5th and 7th.
Billiam-Smith took a lot of big shots from Okolie and dealt with a bad cut over his left eye.
Okolie was holding excessively, especially in the later rounds, and was obvious that he wasn’t comfortable with getting hit by Billiam-Smith.
112-112 scorecard was bizarre
“It was a great fight. Honorable from both guys. Chris Billiam-Smith rose to the occasion in front of his home crowd at a football stadium and weathered the storm a few times and took a few licks,” said George Groves to Boxing UK about Chris Billiam-Smith’s victory over WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie last Saturday night.
“He changed the fight’s momentum with that big left hook that dropped Okolie in the fourth or fifth round in the middle rounds and then looked to build from it. Okolie points off for holding, which, you know, sometimes points off feels harsh, but saying he’s guilty of it and owning up to it in the end.
“One of those knockdowns was slightly harsh. I think the last one, he sort of got caught, and then he’s untidy with his feet. He ends up going down. Referee Marcus McDonnell, he done a good job, and at that point, there’s only one winner.
“One of the scorecards, 112-112, was a bit bizarre. Chris Billiam-Smith, he won that round where he dropped Okolie the first time and won the next one, and then there were rounds that could have been even.
Okolie attempted to rally
“Ultimately, amazing from Okolie as well. He pushed really hard at the end, knowing he needed a stoppage. Who knows how close he came? He landed some huge shots on Billiam-Smith, but he weathered it, and then lovely words from both guys at the end.
“For Lawrence Okolie to lose his world title and to be so humble in his speech after shows credit to the man. He definitely has a bright future. I’d love to see the fight again if it comes around again, it’s going to be one that I’m looking forward to.
[Richard] Riakporhe is knocking at the door, so Billiam-Smith has got two options for a rematch. It might be Okolie again. It might be Riakporhe, or he might go a different route.
“I think his eye looks in a bad way, so he’s going to need to rest up before he goes rushing back. He’s [Riakporhe] is a big cruiserweight.
“There’s cruiserweights and big cruiserweights. Riakporhe is a huge cruiserweight. Okolie is a huge cruiserwight. These guys might only be here for a little while before they start thinking about heavyweight.
“Billiam-Smith needs to enjoy his moment and let the dust settle as long as he possibly can. He’ll enjoy some family time and get back on the grind.
“I said to Chris before the fight, ‘It’s a mental battle for you, mate. Don’t get caught with no shots. Don’t give away no free shots.’ It’s the same thing for everyone. He’s always in those fights where he doesn’t want to give away shots at the top level.
“He’s got that style, that high hand, and he sometimes looks like he can switch off. So to his credit, he was laser-focused in the ring walk. He was a different type of fighter tonight. It was a hard task against a big physical guy in Lawrence Okolie, who can punch ridiculously hard.
“To his credit, he did a fantastic job and stayed switched on with the win of his life,” said Groves about Billiam-Smith.