Lawrence Okolie vs Chris Billam-Smith world cruiserweight title clash: Key questions and expert predictions

Lawrence Okolie vs Chris Billam-Smith world cruiserweight title clash: Key questions and expert predictions

The careers of Chris Billam-Smith and Lawrence Okolie have been tied closely together for a long time as the pair were both trained by coach Shane McGuigan for a number of years, sharing over 300 rounds of sparring together.

Okolie split from McGuigan earlier this year and teamed up with SugarHill Steward. The change in camp has allowed this fight to finally materialise.

Okolie is a world champion, while Billam-Smith has built a passionate local following in Bournemouth. The 15,000 seat Vitality Stadium will be sold out for the showdown.

Okolie will defend his WBO cruiserweight world title along with his undefeated streak of 19-0. But, aside from resumes and prizes for the trophy cabinet, bragging rights will be at stake.

Okolie has always been one step ahead of Billam-Smith as a boxer, getting selected for the GB squad and becoming an Olympian - unlike the Bournemouth man - and winning the British, Commonwealth and European titles before Billam-Smith did himself.

Okolie is now a world champion, precisely what Billam-Smith dreams of becoming.

After being gym-mates for so long, now they will have pride at stake too, wanting to show which of them is the better fighter.

Okolie will want to use distance to his advantage. His long reach makes it incredibly difficult for most opponents to get into range, while he can land his own shots or clinch when on the inside - a tactic he has deployed often and something he can be criticised for.

Billam-Smith will be dangerous early, hoping to take advantage of a slow Okolie start. Okolie may well have to ride an early storm before using his physical advantages and superior boxing ability to break the Bournemouth man down as the rounds go by into the second half of the fight.

Okolie has gone the distance in his last two bouts, but prior to those victories, he had seven KO wins on the spin, demonstrating the vicious punching power he has in his arsenal.

This will be his second fight with Steward, so expect 'The Sauce' to show more improvement and look for his first stoppage since 2021.

After an early career split decision loss to Richard Riakporhe, the Bournemouth man has won eight consecutive fights and picked up British, Commonwealth and European crowns along the way. Momentum is on the side of the challenger and this, coupled with him fighting at home in front of 15,000 fans, could give him the mental edge heading into the biggest fight of his career.

Billam-Smith will have to be very busy in this fight, find a way to get past Okolie's long levers, close the gap and sting him. It will be important for him to get the champion's attention early, not allowing Okolie to settle into a rhythm.

Billam-Smith will have to work with a fast, powerful, high-volume attack and show the power he demonstrated in his stoppage victory over Armend Xhoxhaj. But this time, knowing how powerful and accurate Okolie is, he must remain relaxed and pressure sensibly throughout.

SugarHill Steward is a trainer known for his combative teaching methods - the 'Kronk style' of the world famous gym. Effective aggression behind good fundamentals. This style is based on a solid jab with the ability to use the space to move forward from the jab to mount an aggressive attack.

SugarHill has been tasked with reawakening the destructive force that Okolie once was as he began tearing through the cruiserweight division after a meteoric rise following the 2016 Olympic Games.

Shane McGuigan, in Billam-Smith's corner, along with being a masterful tactician, also focuses a lot on strength and conditioning, ensuring his fighters are structurally correct to prevent injuries and enhance fitness and intensity. This will be vital for success in this fight, because Billam-Smith must keep up an extremely high tempo to derail Okolie.

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