By Chris Billam-Smith
MOST people are expecting me to just turn up on Sunday night and win.
Luckily, I don’t listen to most people. I listen to about four people’s opinions in boxing and they are the only people that matter – maybe five if you include my own.
For me, Mateusz Masternak is my hardest fight to date stylistically. He’s so, so tough. I can’t be giving him a few rounds and hoping he tires out because he doesn’t tire out. You can’t plan to chip away and break him down late on because that’s not what happens.
This is like the Isaac Chamberlain fight but a better and more consistent version. His gas tank is good, he puts his shots together well, he can punch and he’s one of the most durable men in the division. The occasion doesn’t really matter because I’m seeing this as my hardest fight to date.
This is the first of a new three-fight deal with Boxxer and obviously it’s all based on me winning. Lawrence Okolie will want the rematch, I know what he’s like. It was the same when he lost to Erislandy Savon in the amateurs, he wanted to get back in there and learn from it and he will be exactly the same now. But as with Savon, when he lost the first and second time, this will be the same – I’ll beat him again.
I like Lawrence and I do wish him well but from a business perspective, and boxing is an entertainment business, it’s a hard sell.
I watched the fight back a few days after it happened when my little man woke up at silly o’clock in the morning. I thought ‘this is a hard watch’. The more I watch it, the more I see things I can do better or things I did well. I think I managed the rounds well in terms of pressing when I needed to or conserving energy when I needed to. It was a frustrating fight to watch back at times.
I thought the ref did a good job and I’m so glad he didn’t chuck Lawrence out because that would be no way to win a world title. To get that feeling at the end was everything. The suspense builds and then I get the euphoric moment like I had.
Winning another world title will be amazing but I don’t think it can top what happened. It was so deep that night. From me sitting there as a season ticket holder, 12 years old. Then I’m stood in front of the fans and they are chanting my name. Even just the date, George Groves, my favourite fighter, won his world title at a football stadium on May 22, which is exactly the same as me.
Life is changing a little bit since that night. I read something that there’s always delay, that if you achieve something there’s a year delay on it. People see you as something else now but you’re still the same person. You only understand that after the delay.
More people notice me around Bournemouth and stuff, doing the weekend shop. It’s not mad but I might have my son Frank in the trolley and I’m just trying to stop him throwing all the stuff out onto the floor and someone is asking me about the last fight they were at. It’s nice and I’m always grateful but it’s new for me. Nothing has really changed, I still have to change nappies and do everything else.
Lots of people have been asking me about my mum too. Of course, we found out during camp last time that she had cancer but she was just so positive from the off. It wasn’t anything I had to deal with in the camp because my mum is so strong. When she told me there were no tears or anything. I was a little bit emotional when she told me but after that I didn’t again. She said ‘look, this is where we are at, this is what’s going to happen, I’m going to have this surgery and all will be fine’. Thankfully that’s happened.
I must get my calmness from her and the mental strength too because she’s just a warrior. I’ll be channelling all of that again come Saturday night.