CHRIS BILLAM-SMITH believes the next defence of his WBO Cruiserweight belt will be against former opponent Richard Riakporhe.

Both men were on different sides of the ring on Sunday (December 10) evening inside the Bournemouth International Centre. Billam-Smith was defending his title for the first time against veteran Mateusz Masternak while Riakporhe was ringside working as an analyst for Sky Sports.

After a tricky first half of the fight, Billam-Smith emerged victorious when Masternak got up off his stool between rounds seven and eight but was unable to continue fighting due to a rib injury. The damage sustained had been the result of thudding hooks delivered by the champion to the challenger’s body.

With his maiden defence taken care of, thoughts now turn to the future. And it looks likely that Billam-Smith’s future will feature Riakporhe, the WBO number one contender, in the opposite corner.

“That fight’s probably next, yeah,” he told Boxing News in the early hours of Monday (December 11) morning.

“His unbeaten record and the history, two Brits, it’s a fun fight,” he added.

The “history” the 33-year-old refers to stems from their meeting on July 20, 2019, at the O2 Arena in London. Having been dropped in round seven of that fight, a 10-rounder, Billam-Smith was awarded a winning scorecard of 96-93 from ringside judge Terry O’Connor. However, his colleagues Leszek Jankowiak and Salvador Salva both gave the nod to Riakporhe with scores of 95-94 and 97-92 in his favour.

Billam-Smith believes that his display against Masternak may increase Riakporhe’s belief that he can take the belt from the Bournemouth fighter.

“I’m sure he’ll look at that tonight and maybe think it’s an easy fight, [an] easier fight than before,” Billam-Smith said.

“It’s different when you’re in there with me [but] that fight would be great. There’s other fights out there but that one looks most likely, to be honest, because the WBO has to call a mandatory. It’s an exciting fight.”

Riakporhe’s undefeated record remains intact having added another seven wins to his record since beating Billam-Smith. The power of ‘The Midnight Train’ has been particularly evident since making his debut for Boxxer two years ago (when stopping Olanrewaju Durodola in five rounds). Riakporhe’s next four opponents – Deion Jumah, Fabio Turchi, Krzysztof Glowacki and Dylan Bregeon – all failed to hear the final bell. Having been caught by Masternak regularly, will Billam-Smith need to be defensively tighter against the Londoner or other top tier opponents in the future?

“Yeah, but at the same time they box very differently and haven’t got feet as good as Masternak,” he countered.

“He’s very cute in certain areas. Little pullbacks and little shoulder rolls in defence [which] he’s very smart with. It takes a bit away from me in that sense.

“Styles make fights, as they say, and I know the work I can do.  I’ll have to be better, more switched on, but there’s a reason for it. I was very comfortable in there [against Masternak]. There’s a reason I sort of switched off at times because I was a bit too comfortable with the pace of the shots, the power of the shots. If someone’s a bigger puncher or faster puncher, I wouldn’t be as comfortable allowing those shots through. It would change it.”