In a fight that was certainly tough to call and wound up an interesting if at times ugly cruiserweight battle, Richard Riakporhe kept his “0” and handed Chris Billam-Smith his first pro loss via split decision today in London.
Riakporhe (10-0, 8 KO) won on scores of 97-92, 95-94, and 93-96. Billam-Smith falls to 9-1 (8 KO) with the defeat.
Billam-Smith looked the better boxer of the two for much of the fight, but Riakporhe’s spoiling efforts kept things close and tough to figure, as well as his power, which did get to Billam-Smith a couple times. There was a questionable knockdown call in the seventh round, and if the knockdown hadn’t been called, the fight would have been a split draw, as the 95-94 Riakporhe card would have been a 95-95 even card instead.
“I slightly underestimated him. He’s a true fighter and I respect him,” Riakporhe said. “It was tough, as you saw. We had to dig deep and I’m used to that.”
“I honestly thought I won the fight. The knockdown, I don’t believe it was a knockdown. But respect to Richard. I knew he’d underestimate me, and I understand why. That’s why we were so confident going in,” Billam-Smith said. “I didn’t push enough, but after five rounds I thought I was 4-1 up. Maybe I got a bit complacent.”
It’s still a bit hard to project Riakporhe, 29, because he’s not a young prospect, but still very much learning on the job. Billam-Smith showed some potential here, too, and both could be players at the domestic level at least for a few years.
Dalton Smith RTD-2 Ibrar Riyaz
It’s easy to look at Riyaz’s record, now 6-166-4 (3 KO), and not be surprised or think there’s much to say about Smith (2-0, 1 KO) getting him out after two. But understand that in 166 professional losses, Riyaz has now been stopped a total of four times, the same amount as Amir Khan in Khan’s five losses. Obviously Khan operates at a much higher level, but Riyaz is a veteran who almost always goes the four or six rounds he’s signed up for, and Smith forced him to stop after two here. Riyaz came in last minute here to face Smith, a 22-year-old 140-pound prospect from Sheffield that Matchroom quite like. Riyaz praised Smith’s ability, and he’s been in with a lot of fighters.
Lawrence Okolie TKO-7 Mariano Angel Gudino
British and Commonwealth cruiserweight champ Okolie (13-0, 10 KO) was just staying busy here after his scheduled fight for earlier this month was canceled. Gudino (13-3, 8 KO) was down four times in total, once early and thrice in the seventh, and the referee called it off as the round came to an end.
This wasn’t particularly impressive from Okolie, but that’s largely down to Gudino, who just refused to engage at all, really stinking the joint out. To be balanced, Okolie also showed an inability to effectively get to a guy who wasn’t even any good, just being negative. But it happens. Okolie remains a fighter putting it all together, and his partnership with trainer Shane McGuigan — if it sticks — could work out nicely. The cruiserweight division is fairly wide open right now and open for moves from someone like Okolie.
“I think it’s good to be in there with someone else who’s awkward and deal with certain movements and stuff,” Okolie said, feeling good that he got some rounds in, putting a positive spin on things, which he should.
Okolie now appears headed for a fight with European champion Yves Ngabu, according to Eddie Hearn.
“Lawrence has already told us he wants that fight. It’s a really tough fight,” Hearn said. “Ngabu is a real test. Tough, tough fighter. The levels between Gudino and Ngabu are so vast, you’d like to have someone in the middle, but there really isn’t anyone in the middle.”
For what it’s worth, Ngabu is 20-0 (14 KO) and has never fought outside of Belgium.
Dan Azeez TKO-6 Charlie Duffield
Duffield (7-2, 6 KO) was game here, but he wound up badly outclassed and beaten up a bit by Azeez (9-0, 6 KO). Azeez turns 30 next month, so don’t get too wild about him as a prospect, but he looks to have at least domestic contender ability and power at 175. He only turned pro in Dec. 2017 so even though his age is fairly advanced, he’s still very much a work in progress.