Chris Billam-Smith successfully defended his WBO world cruiserweight title with a convincing unanimous decision victory over Richard Riakporhe at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park.

The Gentleman avenged his 2019 split decision defeat to Riakporhe, proving too much for the London man in their rematch after a 116-111, 115-112, 115-112 ruling.

Bournemouth supporter Billam-Smith dug in away from home and prevented Riakporhe’s power to be a factor as he elevated himself into potential unification contention.

Billam-Smith hinted in fight week that trainer Shane McGuigan had devised a plan for Riakporhe and that was clear in the first round. CBS refused to take a back step during the early exchanges, forcing Riakporhe on the back foot in a bid to suppress the power in his right hand.

Chris Billam-Smith v Richard Riakporhe – Selhurst Park
Billam-Smith retained his WBO world cruiserweight title (Steven Paston/PA)

Billam-Smith relished the close encounters and took every opportunity to rough Riakporhe up on the inside. This approach was by no means pretty, but it was effective in disrupting his opponent’s rhythm as Riakporhe failed to land any meaningful shots by the end of the second.

Riakporhe was still in first gear by the fourth. The south London man looked shot of any momentum and his clinch-heavy tactics began to sap the atmosphere around Selhurst Park as he began to fall further behind on the cards.

This continued into the midway point of the fight with the referee having to separate the pair multiple times per round. The match-up resembled Billam-Smith’s title win against Lawrence Okolie last May where Okolie’s clinching saw him deducted points on the night.

With fatigue building it felt like Riakporhe’s chances were fading. He began to swing his right hand with little to no accuracy but a late flurry in round seven proved his most successful period of the bout.

The flurry developed into a quality ninth round from the Midnight Train as he tested the champion’s chin with multiple power shots. Riakporhe forced Billam-Smith onto the ropes with a straight right which created the first moment of uncertainty for the Bournemouth man.

Riakporhe ran out of steam and he reverted back to his early bad habits. This saw him finally deducted a point in the 12th which all but confirmed Billam-Smith’s deserved victory.