CHRIS BILLAM-SMITH will make the first defence of his WBO cruiserweight title on Sunday, December 10 in Bournemouth.
Standing across from him will be veteran Mateusz Masternak, 47-5 (31), who will be stepping onto Billam-Smith’s home turf inside the Bournemouth International Centre having had his last six fights in his native Poland.
Billam-Smith, 33, won the belt on points in his home city five months ago against friend and former gym-mate Lawrence Okolie. While that fight turned out to be one to forget, the occasion was not, with Billam-Smith, 18-1 (12), delighting the thousands packed inside AFC Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium by securing what ended up being an emotional victory.
Okolie had been expected to face Billam-Smith once again having activated his rematch clause but instead it will be Masternak who faces ‘The Gentleman’. Speaking to Boxing News about the possibility of facing Okolie in a return, Billam-Smith said: “I think he wants the fight. I think the issue may be with broadcasters because of the way he fights. It’s an entertainment business, an entertainment network, and [his] fights aren’t that entertaining. But he’s contracted for the rematch, so we’ll see what happens.”
Last week it was announced that Boxxer, who promote Billam-Smith, entered into a media rights partnership with NBC Sports which would see bouts streamed live on NBCUniversal’s streaming platform Peacock (with select events airing on NBC).
Masternak, 36, is now into his 18th year as a professional and is a former European champion, though has to date never challenged for full world honours. In June 2014 Masternak lost a split decision to Youri Kalenga for the WBA’s interim trinket but would then avenge this loss four years later, stopping the French-Congolese cruiser in six rounds.
His visit to UK shores in December will be the second of his career. Previously he gave a good account of himself against Tony Bellew in a European title fight in 2015, but was ultimately defeated on points.
Billam-Smith, meanwhile, will look to end the year on a high before then entering into unifications in 2024 against either Jai Opetaia (IBF) or Arsen Goulamirian (WBA). (Badou Jack has recently vacated his WBC title, meaning it will now be contested by the top two contenders, Noel Mikaelian and Illunga Makabu.)