The Opening Round: Chris Billam-Smith v Richard Riakporhe 2

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By Mark Mothershaw

This Saturday night will provide the answers to so many questions.

Who has improved more since their first bout five years ago? Is Chris Billam-Smith on the decline, as has been suggested by Richard Riakporhe? And who is British boxing’s current cruiserweight king?

Dependent upon who you speak to, you’ll hear plenty of contrasting opinions ahead of fight night.

Even fellow professionals, trainers and pundits can’t call the outcome. But, at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park, we will all soon receive the clarity we crave.

Make no mistake about it, unlike so many bouts in this day and age, this is a true pick-em’ fight.

There will be many who feel Riakporhe’s undoubted power will come to the fore to help dethrone the current WBO champion, and beat him for a second time, whilst those of a CBS persuasion will take heart from the fact that their man has defied the bookmakers’ odds on so many previous occasions.

Billam-Smith isn’t adverse to being the underdog; in fact, it’s a role he has proven to have relished in the past – just ask Lawrence Okolie!

But then, on that momentous occasion on home soil last summer, he had the backing of a vociferous Bournemouth crowd.

This time around, his feet will be set firmly on enemy territory, and he’s likely to have to dig deeper than ever before to depart South London with his title still in-tow.

The 33-year-old will take to the ring as the 7/4 outsider, with Riakporhe, who let’s not forget has only fought twice in the past two years, installed as the bet365 4/9 pre-fight favourite.

In boxing terms, those odds aren’t dramatically wide, but still, they do represent a clear indication of who is expected to be holding their arms aloft under the bright lights of Selhurst Park late Saturday night.

But, how does bet365’s resident boxing expert Rob Tebbutt envisage the fight playing out this weekend?

“I expect both men to come forward and let their big shots go,” he told bet365’s Sports & Betting News site.

“We all know about Richard Riakporhe’s punching power, but let’s not forget that Chris Billam-Smith sent Lawrence Okolie to the canvas on three occasions as well as stopping Mateusz Masternak inside the distance in his last outing.

“Personally, I really like the play of ‘Fight To Go The Distance – No’ at 11/10 this weekend, given how this bout is likely to play out.

“As I have touched upon, Riakporhe boasts real lights out power in his right hand, and also packs a punch – just as all cruiserweights do – so there’s every chance we see this fight reach its conclusion before the scheduled 12 round distance.

“In terms of the fight itself, and the winner, I have this one down as a real 50/50 scrap, and far closer than the bookmakers have priced it up at, and because of that, I just feel the value is with Chris Billam-Smith at almost 7/4 to successfully defend his world title.”

Billam-Smith v Riakporhe 2 tops the bill in the big smoke on Saturday – an occasion that will also see the return of one of the most hyped boxers on the planet right now, Ben Whittaker.

‘The Surgeon’ will tackle the unbeaten Nigerian Ezra Arenyeka after he famously hijacked Whittaker’s pre-fight press conference earlier this year, demanding an opportunity against the light-heavyweight prospect.

Whittaker subsequently granted him his wish, and many will be expecting the Midlander to serve up his own form of punishment when the pair lock-horns as part of the undercard.

“Ben Whittaker is one of the most highly touted prospects in world boxing right now, and we have seen him going vital for his in-ring antics in recent months, and I am expecting more of the same on Saturday night,” Tebbutt explained in his pre-fight betting preview.

“This will be Whittaker’s first 10-rounder, but I expect the fight to play out in almost identical fashion to how all of his previous professional bouts have to date, with another dominant performance.

“Given the fact that this is being played out over 10 rounds I am anticipating Ben Whittaker taking his time a little bit, and slowly break Ezra Arenyeka down during those middle rounds.

I feel he will take a good look at Arenyeka early on, maybe give fans a bit of showboating before going through the gears and closing the show between rounds five and six, at 7/2, or seven and eight, at 4/1.”

Elsewhere on the stacked BOXXER card, Isaac Chamberlain and Jack Massey will collide with European and Commonwealth cruiserweight honours on the line in the intriguing, and unpredictable, bet365 Wildcard bout.

Like the bout at the top of the bill, this is another keenly contested matchup between two domestic dance partners,” Rob Tebbutt said.

“Isaac Chamberlain has been there, seen it and done it in and around domestic, fringe European level, and we have seen Jack Massey give Joseph Parker a run for his money up at heavyweight last year.

“This is a really tough fight to call, especially with so much on the line for the two men. But I am just leaning towards that battle-hardened experience of Isaac Chamberlain to pull him through the fight.

“We saw him go hell for leather against Chris Billam-Smith two years ago, and we have seen him up at the top levels domestically too. For me, this is a fight that will go the distance, so whilst it may be a short play at 1/3, I do feel that it is a safe play.

“In terms of the fight winner, well as I have said, I will be backing Chamberlain to prevail via decision (6/5) – utilising his experience to see the job through.”

bet365 are also offering Bet Boosts across all of Saturday night’s BOXXER action, meaning you can take advantage of even BIGGER prices on the headline bout and the full undercard, including BOOSTED Bet Builders on the aforementioned fights.

The bet365 Sports & Betting News site houses plenty of pre-fight content, including a comprehensive All You Need To Know guide for the main event, as well as a detailed Tale of the Tape article which houses all of the vital statistics of both Billam-Smith and Riakporhe.

View the latest Bet Boosts and odds for the full BOXXER card and all other upcoming boxing at bet365

Bet Boosts and odds displayed within this article were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time. 

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