RICHARD RIAKPORHE set up a cruiserweight grudge-match shootout with Lawrence Okolie by out-muscling Chris Billam-Smith to a split decision win.
Dillian Whyte, Riakporhe’s manager and the main event later in the evening, was involved in a Twitter spat with the British and Commonwealth champ earlier in the year and he wants his South London protege to settle it in the ring.
Riakporhe needed all ten rounds and one very generous set of score cards to get the job done after Shane McGuigan-trained CBS had shown the better boxing skills.
But the South London 29-year-old has done hundreds of rounds with his ‘Body Snatcher’ boss and his heavy hands got the job done thanks to a controversial 10-8 round in the seventh.
After Billam_smith was given a standing count, the judges scored it: 96-93 Billam-Smith, 97-92 Riakporhe and 95-94 Richard Riakporhe.
Ringside fight legend Barry McGuigan was demanding Billam-Smith ping out his jab from the very first bell. The tactic worked well but Riakporhe scored with a short uppercut in an early clinch.
Bournemouth’s Billam-Smith knew he had to avoid Riakporhe’s terrifying right hand at all costs and he wisely circled the ring to his right, staying out of range of his rival’s honey shot.
Riakporhe landed with a couple of meaty hooks in the second but his build-up work was limited and the crowd was not interested in the grappling that occurred early on, with both men gravely aware how much was at stake and desperate not to make the first big mistake.
Riakporhe was winning the physical battle but his long looping shots were missing wildly but Billam-Smith was unable to counter throughout the third.
In the fourth, Riakpothe landed a straight right but CBS smiled until seconds later he looked in trouble as he ducked back into the ropes under a second wave of attack.
At the start of the fifth, the pair almost bundled over the ropes when an exchange of punches turned into a bearhug that threatened to spill over into the posh seats.
Billam-Smith landed a couple of flush shots before the bell but he was rightly fearful of over-committing and getting countered, despite being the better boxer.
Riakporhe started the sixth with a thudding one-two that, luckily for the 28-year-old, landed on his gloves. But an identical assault later breached CBS’ card and bundled him back onto the ropes, a left hand threatened to end it but Billam-Smith proved his chin.
By the seventh, CBS’ nose was bleeding and a right hand scrambled his senses momentarily. And another Riakporhe attack left him face first over the slack ropes and accepting an eight count.
Most Read in Boxing
Both fighters looked shattered in round eight but it was Riakporhe that landed the best shot of the session, Billam-Smith again showing his grit by surviving the piledriver.
A left hook from Riakporhe connected almost as soon as the ninth bell rang and a right uppercut moments later sent Billam Smith’s head rocking backwards but his resolve was superb.
A bruised but brave Billam-Smith said: “The knockdown I do not believe was a knockdown. I was on the rope. It wasn’t a knockdown.”