Chris Billam-Smith is adamant that he is now ready to box at world level.
The Bournemouth cruiserweight defended his European title in a stirring 12-round clash with Isaac Chamberlain in July.
He is now targeting the leading fighter in the division, Jai Opetaia, who defeated Mairis Briedis to win the IBF championship earlier this year.
Opetaia has been recovering from the breaks to his jaw he sustained in that fight but Billam-Smith hopes a world title challenge against the Australian can be made for May of next year.
Ahead of that however, he intends to box once again before the year is out. “After the last show I don’t think we can fight anywhere else but Bournemouth,” Billam-Smith told Sky Sports. “I think that’s the plan and that’s what we’re trying to work on next.
“Everybody loved it, amazing experience, a lot of people it was their first boxing match because obviously, they’re from Bournemouth there hasn’t been many down here.
“Hopefully we can continue that and always bring good nights down here and great atmospheres as well. But it’s been incredible to receive support from the entire town.”
The home crowd is important to him. It even proved crucial in his grueling contest with Chamberlain.
“The crowd was behind me the entire time, it was just incredible and I guess that’s what helped me push me on and keep me working even though I was so tired,” he said.
Billam-Smith had known the Londoner would be a demanding opponent. “He had the dislocated shoulder against (Wadi) Camacho, and he got through that fight. He went 10 rounds with Lawrence (Okolie) and he got dropped as well. So people who get dropped by Lawrence don’t usually see the final bell , and he managed to get through that,” Billam-Smith said.
“So I’m well aware of how tough he was and obviously a massive opportunity for him so he wasn’t going to lay down. So I knew it was always going to be a tough night but I just had to keep pressing the pace because I’ve always said that is my best attribute, the work rate and the variety of shots and using a bullying tactic as such in there.”
Billam-Smith needs to test whether his skills can carry him through to the world level. He wants to fight again in December, against a seasoned, high-calibre opponent.
“Obviously coming up from light-heavyweight but (Sergey) Kovalev got a good win against Tervel Pulev,” he suggested. “Maybe that’s an opportunity.”
Badou Jack is another name he’d target. “I think now I need to take that next step to a well-experienced pro,” he said. “If I end up fighting Jai Opetaia, [he could potentially fight] a southpaw, if we’re looking at doing that…. Or just a well seasoned orthodox fighter who’s been there and done it.
“We’ll be looking at Opetaia maybe May next year, which is a hard fight for sure. He’s a super skilled operator and he’s proven at the moment he’s the number one by beating the number one in Briedis. I do believe Lawrence would probably be the number one but [Opetaia] obviously holds that at the moment because he’s had the fights and been given the chance to prove it.
“But it’s an excellent fight and one I’m absolutely bang up for.”