CHRIS BILLAM-SMITH admits to having one worry over the chances of Jordan Thompson upsetting the odds against Jai Opetaia on Saturday night (Sept 30).
Thompson, 30, challenges the Australian for his IBF cruiserweight strap at Wembley Arena.
Billam-Smith, too, broke away from contender status to successfully wrest the WBO title from Lawrence Okolie in May. The new champion hopes that his fellow Brit will join him at the top table but in a recent interview with Boxing News shared a concern he has for Thompson ahead of what is a significant leap in class for the underdog.
“I think it comes down to dealing with the occasion,” Billam-Smith said.
“Sometimes you can give champions too much respect and just sit back and sort of try and lose on points, well not try… and that’s what would worry me with Jordan. But hopefully I get to see him before the fight.”
“Opetaia rightly starts the favourite based on previous performances but Jordan’s massive at cruiserweight,” he added. “He’s like 6ft 7ins, maybe 6ft 6ins, massively built at the weight. I had him in at the very start of my camp for Lawrence [Okolie] because he was finishing his camp for the Luke Watkins fight. [He’s] developing really well, carries power, puts his shots together.”
Thompson, 15-0 (12), will jump from facing domestic opponent Luke Watkins and tough European Vasil Ducar in his last two fights – both over 10 rounds – to the man who beat the man. Opetaia, 22-0 (17), caused a shock of his own in July 2022 when the 28-year-old survived a jaw injury to topple Briedis in Australia. However, since then issues outside of the ring have played their part in disrupting the southpaw’s career.
“Opetaia has been out for however long by the time the fight comes around; you’re looking at 14-15 months,” Billam-Smith commented.
“Management issues, broken jaw, shoulder surgery, that’s a lot to deal with so it’ll be interesting to see how he comes back and how he deals with the situation. But I’d make him a favourite obviously, and I don’t think that’s any offence to Jordan. I don’t think he’s expecting anyone to pick him and it’s the same with me going into my fight with Lawrence. [I was a] massive underdog, didn’t expect anyone to make me a favourite going into the fight, anyone to pick me to win it because I hadn’t necessarily shown that before. But a lot can happen and mindset comes into it. I wish Jordan all the best and look forward to watching that one.”