The disappointment of not getting picked by Team GB lit a fire in Cruiserweight Chris Billam-Smith which threatens to ignite a professional career of titles aplenty.
Bournemouth resident, Smith took his resume to 5-0 early this year, none making it to hear the final bell showing great promise under the guidance of Shane McGuigan.
In a stable that houses WBA Super Middleweight king George Groves, He is in the ideal place to witness first hand what sacrifices are made to make it to the top as he looks to replicate the glories of his idol.
Michael Shepherd took the opportunity recently to talk to Chris to bring you this TopClass Q&A:
Tell us about how you first got involved in the sport and your amateur career?
I started training properly at 16. My brother Ben had taken me a couple of times when I was younger but only a handful of times. But when I went to college I met a friend, Dean Porkins, who boxed and I became very good friends with him quickly and I started going training with him and a few other pals. Then I watched Dean box about 4 months into training on and off and I decided then that I wanted to give it a go. So 10 months later I had my first amateur fight.
I then went on to have 43 amateur fights losing 11. I won the novice class Bs in my 14th fight. Then went in the Elite ABAs. The first season I reached the quarters but I’d broke my hand the week before in the pre-quarters so I couldn’t go in quarters. I ended up going in the Elites 6 times reaching 3 quarters, 1 semi and 2 finals. I had GB assessments numerous times. Then eventually turned over
Do you think the amateur circuit is important for a young boxer to go through?
Yes, I do because you’re pretty much always in 50/50 fights which is great because you have to deal with nerves and how to turn up and perform on the night. The psychological side is very important. You also get good schooling of the basics.
What made you decide to turn professional & how old were you?
Not getting on the GB squad, I’ve always aimed to be the best so as an amateur I wanted to get on GB and box all around the world against the best. That didn’t happen so I decided to turn pro at 26. So I called Shane and we went from there.
What are your memories of your professional debut?
Great memories. At home in front of hundreds of people in an arena that creates the best atmosphere. I was boxing Russ Henshaw who I was going to box as an amateur at one stage and he had a winning record so I was excited to make a statement.
What is your favourite boxing memory so far?
I have quite a few, reaching ABA finals, making my debut at home, boxing on George’s undercard. It’s hard to pinpoint any particular moment. But I’m really enjoying my life and where it’s at. The gym is booming with so much talent and you can’t help but thrive off it.
For people that haven’t seen you box, talk me through your style? What are your best qualities?
I haven’t shown it as a pro yet but I’m very adaptable, but my footwork, speed and Jab I’d say are my best qualities, under Shane, that may all change in 6 months time as he’s developing all areas to my game, its great!
Who are some of the best you’ve sparred with to date & how beneficial was it for you?
The best two would be David Haye and George Groves. David had very good head movement and made you miss a lot. George has (as everyone knows) a very sharp jab and heavy hands, but the way he sets his attacks up is great. You don’t realise how good he is until you get in there with him, and I think that has been shown throughout his career and he’s only getting better.
Do you feel any pressure that you are looked at and labelled a great British prospect?
Labels don’t change anything. You can draw inspiration from them but at end of the day, you still got to do all the work and improve every day. Being with the team I’m with I guess adds pressure but I love it. Serena Williams once said ‘pressure is a privilege’ and I have to agree with her. Only the best have pressure put on them.
What’s it like having Team McGuigan behind you?
It’s brilliant. They have got me on TV shows as well as boxing at home and have proven Shane is a great coach. But most of all they are good people, I expect to have a long successful career and a lifetime friendship with the whole family.
All-time favourite Fighter?
I’m going to get a lot of stick for this in the gym but I do anyway, but George Groves. I’ve been a fan of his for years and years long before I got the opportunity to spar him. It’s mad how we’re now stablemates. People say don’t meet your idols…. I’ll have to disagree on that one.
Who inspired you to pull on the gloves?
My brother Ben and Dean Porkins. I watched the film Ali as a kid and loved that too. But they were the 2 that inspired me most.
What songs are always on the gym playlist when you are training?
Shane has the control over the music so there is a lot of different genre’s. Soul music, indie, Rock like Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, Kasabian, then he’ll chuck in some Eminem and other rap. All sorts.
Any short term and long term goals at this point, or anything that you would like to achieve in X amount of time?
I’m going to win a title of some sort this year. But then I want to move on to British title and beyond. I just want to go as far as I can and I’ll keep going. That’s how I was as an amateur. I have goals that just keep growing, once you achieve one there is another one you want.
What is going on with your boxing career now- Can you tell readers when? Where? And against whom you will be fighting next?
June 16th in Bournemouth at the O2 Academy against Michal Plesnik whos had 8 won 6 with 5 kos and never been stopped… so far.
What are your hopes for the rest of 2018 & 2019?
Win some titles and bring some big fights down to Bournemouth
Final words or closing statements?
Thanks for your questions and I hope everyone enjoys my career. It’ll be exciting and fun