CHRIS BILLAM-SMITH says he doesn’t want to be “a flash in the pan” ahead of the first defence of his WBO cruiserweight belt. The 33-year-old will be on home turf again when he fights Polish veteran Mateusz Masternak on Sunday December 10 at the Bournemouth International Centre.
Billam-Smith, now ranked second only to world champion Jai Opetaia, has seen his stock rise considerably since winning the title from Lawrence Okolie in a foul-filled encounter at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium in May.
“I don’t want to be a flash in the pan,” Billam-Smith said at today’s launch press conference for his fight against Masternak, who is regarded as the ninth best cruiser on the planet.
“I’ve won the [WBO] world title and I never want to let it go,” the 33-year-old continued. “I’m so motivated, more motivated than ever before. There’s a different type of motivation because you’re not just chasing something, you’re trying to hold on to something and someone’s trying to take something that’s yours. As a father that’s like my second child. That honour of holding the belt I want to keep.”
His trainer Shane McGuigan and promoter Ben Shalom spoke of the potential for a close fight with both boxers being similar in style. The Brit, 18-1 (12), is currently priced at 1/5 with Bet365 while the Pole is 7/2. Billam-Smith and Masternak do like to fight up close and both possess sturdy whiskers. McGuigan, however, pointed out one advantage his fighter will enjoy.
“I can see the two of them hurting each other throughout the fight but I don’t think he’s boxed anyone as quick in terms of short-range combinations that Chris does,” McGuigan said.
“He’s incredibly tough. He’s boxed [Yuniel] Dorticos, he’s boxed [Tony] Bellew, big one-punch knockout artists. They’re not slow but [have] good timing. Chris, he surprises you. It’s one of those fights, it’s going to be edge of your seat. He’s [Masternak] probably the most well-rounded boxer he’s boxed. He’s dangerous at all ranges and it should be a fantastic fight.”
British fans may remember Masternak, 47-5 (31), from that close points defeat to Bellew in December 2015. In a career spanning 17 years, the Polish fighter – a former European champion – has only been stopped once (by Grigory Drozd in 2013) and this contest with Billam-Smith will represent his first shot at a sanctioning body belt.
“For 17 years I wait for this time when I can have an opportunity to get a title,” Masternak said through a translator.
“During the 17 years I was winning, I was losing. I’ve had tough fights but now is the time to get my dreams for myself and for my fans and for Poland too.”