Cruiserweight colleagues turned rivals Lawrence Okolie and Chris Billam-Smith came face to face today at a press conference in central London to announce their upcoming May 27th blockbuster at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth.
Chaired by BOXXER’s founder and CEO Ben Shalom alongside Sky Sports’ Andy Scott, the press conference also brought British cruiserweight Mikael Lawal and his challenger Isaac Chamberlain together, leading to heated scenes when they faced off for photographs.
Former training partners Okolie and Billam-Smith were cordial with one another, declaring the fight to be “strictly business” for which they would set their friendship aside, though – based on their past sparring – Okolie did predict an “action-packed” encounter with “lots of punches thrown”.
Here’s a selection of quotes from today’s press conference at the luxury Landmark Hotel in London, England.
WHAT TIME IS OKOLIE VS. BILLAM-SMITH?
- Date: Saturday, May 27
- Start time: 7 p.m. BST / 2 p.m. ET
- Main event ringwalks (approx): 10 p.m. BST / 5 p.m. ET
- The fight takes place at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, England.
- The event is set to get underway at 7 p.m. BST / 2 p.m. ET with the main event ringwalks scheduled for 10 p.m. BST / 5 p.m. ET. These timings could change due to the length of the undercard fights.
- Sky Sports will broadcast the fight in the UK
I had a year out for various reasons and I came over to Boxxer to be active. I enjoy fighting against the best people. I’m not one of those fighters that talks about it, I am one of those fighters who goes out and makes it happen. It’s a quick turnaround from what people are used to but I’ve got no injuries or damage from my last fight so why not get straight back into it and keep active.
I know what this fight means to me and what it means to Chris and I know what I am going to have to put my body through over the next few weeks. My performance against David Light was me coming back after a year off.
Against Chris … we’ve had a lot of spars, I know what this fight is going to look like. He always has action-packed fights with a lot of punches exchanged. And actually as much as I like Chris I am looking forward to being in that type of fight.
On wanting a stoppage win despite their friendship
I guess that’s always the aim isn’t it? Chris is someone who I respect as a person, I know him well, I love how he is with his family and I love him as a person. It’s unfortunate because I like Chris but ultimately he’s Commonwealth champion, former European champion, he’s highly-ranked and those are the type of fights I want to be in.
On gelling with new coach SugarHill Steward
Yeah, of course. Soon as you start a new job or new area there’s going to be a learning curve. There’s going to be on lessons learned. We had 12 rounds last week so we’ve got a lot to work with and we both know what we need to work on in the gym. So I’m really excited for these next few weeks.
Obviously when you’re in the same gym, you never expected [a fight] to happen and you never expect people to leave either but obviously he’s left [McGuigan’s Gym] now and the fight can happen. I like Lawrence,. he’s a funny guy, but he’s got something I want and, as always, it’s just business.
I think we’ve sparred probably 300 rounds against each other. They were learning curves for both of us and we learned a lot as we built ourselves to world-level fighters , and that’s what makes this such an exciting fight. I think I’ve shown in my career that I’ve always tried to fight every champion there is. Lawrence is one of them and now we’re here.
On the fight being in Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium, home to Bournemouth AFC
It’s going to be incredible. So many memories there as a 12 year old, as a season ticket holder for years. I wanted to play for Bournemouth but my feet weren’t quite as good as my hands so I’ve found another way to make my dreams come true and get on the pitch.
SHANE McGUIGAN, TRAINER OF BILLAM-SMITH, FORMER TRAINER OF OKOLIE
It seems a bit odd [that we’re fighting] but it’s really just business. It’s nothing against Lawrence, it’s just that he’s a world champion – and he’s a domestic world champion, so that makes more sense than other fighters.
I don’t think his last performance was his best performance but that’s not the Lawrence Okolie that we are preparing for. We’re preparing for the best version of him.
He’s got multiple threats: he’s 6’5, his reach is 6’9. He’s physical, he’s athletic – I believe he’s the best cruiserweight in the world right now. But for every strength there’s a weakness and I believe we will devise a plan to exploit that.
BEN SHALOM, BOXXER CEO
This one is going to be something special, a world title. We brought the first televised boxing event to Bournemouth last summer and now we’re ready to do a world title there. That’s credit to Chris and everyone involved.
This division right now… you’ve got Richard Riakporhe ready for his world title shot, you’ve got Chris, you’ve got Lawrence active. All these fighters are in their prime now and there’s no excuses. They all want the same thing.
This division is stacked. We’ve got Mikael Lawal against Isaac Chamberlain in an unbelievable British title fight as well. It’s a special division and hopefully it can be an example to the rest of boxing that the best should fight the best in their prime at the right time.
MIKAEL LAWAL, BRITISH CRUISERWEIGHT CHAMPION
I’m happy man, I can’t wait for this fight. I felt the disrespect when he came up to me after my last fight. That was my moment and you just don’t do that. He thought he saw something in that moment but when we fight we will finally see.
He’s got some good attributes but I am going to have to expose him and show him what real boxing is about. I’m going to have to beat him up, that’s about it.
He’s definitely step up and bring the best out of me but I will just find a way to beat this guy, that’s what’s going to happen on the night.
ISAAC CHAMBERLAIN, CHALLENGER
Rubbish. I’ve already been preparing for this fight. And I don’t know why he’s coming with this ‘disrespect’ talk because when we were there [after his last fight] it was all respect.
So I don’t understand why he’s coming with this disrespect talk right now. But I’m very grateful for this opportunity and I’ll say even thanks to Lawal for giving me the fight.
Obviously he can punch but e everyone in the division can punch, it’s the weight we’re at. But look at the people he’s been knocking out, they’ve got like two wins and 47 losses and they’re coming on two weeks notice. This fight is a different level [for him].
LAWRENCE OKOLIE VS. CHRIS BILLAM-SMITH CARD
- Lawrence Okolie vs. Chris Billam-Smith; For Okolie’s WBO cruiserweight title
- Mikael Lawal vs. Isaac Chamberlain for British cruiserweight title
- Lee Cutler vs. Stanley Stannard; Super-wleterweight
- Mace Ruegg vs. Dean Dodge; Super-featherweight
- Sam Eggington vs. Joe Pigford; Super-welterweight
- Michael McKinson vs. TBA; Welterweight
- Tommy Welch vs. TBA; Heavyweight
- Karriss Artingsall vs. Jade Taylor; Featherweight