Chris Billam-Smith has everything to lose in his next fight this Saturday.
Billam-Smith is on the cusp of a shot at a world title. But if he loses to Armend Xhoxhaj at the Bournemouth International Centre in his hometown, live on Sky Sports, then all of that will slip from his grasp.
He is feeling the pressure. “It’s a dangerous fight. He’s aggressive, he comes forward, he’s game. Even against [Mateusz] Masternak, he was having some success early on until he got caught with some good shots,” Billam-Smith told Sky Sports.
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“He’s really dangerous and because nobody knows him he’s even more dangerous. It’s very easy for me to take my eye off the ball.
“So there’s a huge amount of pressure on me and that’s the pressure I’m putting on myself to perform on fight night.”
He promises though that it won’t be a problem. Billam-Smith added: “But I love the pressure. When I haven’t been in pressured situations in the past, then my performances have been flat.
“That’s why I always say it with the Billy Jean King quote, ‘pressure’s a privilege.’ For me pressure only goes to privileged people, people in privileged situations. I’m very fortunate to be where I am and have that pressure on me. I just thrive off it.”
Billam-Smith needs to put in a good display in this fight. He wants to stop Xhoxhaj in the first half of the contest to justify getting a world title shot afterwards.
“I can’t just have a flat performance with what’s on the horizon,” he said. “It’s about building the buzz for a world title fight.”
Billam-Smith is in an unusual position. Even though he will be the challenger, champions are looking for him. WBA titlist Arsen Goulamirian wants to box in the UK against Billam-Smith or Richard Riakporhe. The promoter of IBF champion Jai Opetaia was ringside at Billam-Smith’s last fight to scout him out as a future opponent.
“Maybe they see me as an easy touch and I sell tickets. More fool them if they think that. Who knows?” Billam-Smith shrugged.
His own preference is to take on Ilunga Makabu for the WBC title. “There’s never an easy route, but he’s the less hard out of the champions but also super dangerous because he can really whack,” Billam-Smith said. “He’s been a world champion for a long time.
“For me it’s him or Opetaia. They’re the two fights that make the most sense to me.”
To win, though, Billam-Smith acknowledged: “I’ve got to perform better than I have done in the past.
“I feel like I’ll be coming into my prime now, so it’s all good timing,” he continued.
“I wasn’t at all expected to do big things. British title at best is probably what people were expecting. Obviously, I’ve won the European already so why stop there? There’s only one more stage to go. I say it all the time because my initials are CBS so I always say consistency builds success. For me, consistency has been it.
“I’m nowhere near the finished article. So until I retire I’ll keep grafting. Keep learning. Keep improving and until I retire that’s all that matters. Just keep that upward trajectory.”
Watch Billam-Smith versus Xhoxhaj live on Sky Sports Mix from 7pm and Sky Sports Main Event from 7.30pm on Saturday December 17
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