Chris Billam-Smith has claimed British cruiserweight rival Richard Riakporhe turned down a rematch with him because the Londoner did not want to fight in front of a hostile Bournemouth crowd.
Billam-Smith suffered the only defeat of his career to Riakporhe in July 2019 but has surged back into world title contention with a series of impressive displays, capped by a stunning knockout win over Armend Xhoxhaj in front of his home fans at the Bournemouth International Centre on Saturday.
Riakporhe, who retains a perfect 15-0 (11 KOs) record, was part of Sky Sports Boxing ringside team, and said after the fight that he would have stopped Billam-Smith, who took some heavy early shots from Xhoxhaj, inside three rounds.
However, speaking to Sky Sports News on Monday, Billam-Smith dismissed Riakporhe’s comments.
“He’s going to say what he’s going to say,” said Billam-Smith, who also fought in Bournemouth when he beat Isaac Chamberlain in a thrilling contest in July.
“He had the opportunity to fight me on Saturday night and unfortunately, he turned it down.
“We agreed to it, I heard that he didn’t want to fight me in Bournemouth. He saw the atmosphere last time out, so maybe that put him off a little bit.
“He had the opportunity, but he didn’t take it, so words are one thing, actions are another.”
The cruiserweight world titles are currently held by Arsen Goulamirian (WBA), Ilunga Makabu (WBC), Jai Opetaia (IBF) and Britian’s Lawrence Okolie (WBO), with both Billam-Smith and Riakporhe desperate to earn a shot at any of the four.
There has been heavy speculation that Billam-Smith is most likely to land a 2023 bout with Opetaia, which could take place at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium, while Riakporhe has called for a London showdown with Okolie.
Billam-Smith admits that he and Riakporhe’s shared desire to become world champion is likely to delay a rematch between them for now, but the 32-year-old retains hope of it happening further down the line.
“I think now our eyes are set on a world title shot, so we’re going to go away and win a world title,” Billam-Smith said.
“Hopefully he can do the same and then we can get the rematch on both as world champions and make it a huge, huge fight.”