Chris Billam-Smith was the most interested observer of Armend Xhoxhaj at their public workout at the Bournemouth International Centre on Thursday.
He sat in the front row and watched his opponent shadowbox in the centre of the ring before Xhoxhaj laced on gloves to patter shots against his trainer’s pads.
The Kosovan spent a while on the pads, gradually working in more powerful punches but he was giving away few clues as to what he intends to bring into Saturday’s fight.
In two days the Nuremberg-based Xhoxhaj will seek to disrupt all of Billam-Smith’s well-laid plans for a 2023 world title shot when they fight, live on Sky Sports.
Xhoxhaj is something of a mystery man and though Billam-Smith has studied footage of the Kosovan, Thursday’s session was the first time he got to see him in person.
“It’s good to have a little look, you might notice something in their padwork or their workout, some little bit,” Billam-Smith told Sky Sports.
“It’s good to watch but you can’t take anything as gospel, especially from a pad workout, a public one, that’s where everyone’s trying to make themselves look good, or not give anything away or whatever it is.”
Billam-Smith is, though, relishing the occasion, not only headlining the fight night in Bournemouth but also all the events leading up to it this week.
Waving to the supporters who had turned out to see him and later lobbing hats and T shirts out to them, he still warmed up methodically even for this light training session. Billam-Smith does not want to leave anything to chance.
“I love it, I like doing workouts, I like the weigh-ins. I’ve always liked it but then when it’s in my hometown and with the noise they make it’s even more special,” he said.
“It’s part of the job, number one, you’ve got to do it so you might as well enjoy it.
“For me I would have bit your hand off to be in a situation where I’m doing a public workout on Sky let alone headlining it 10 years ago. It’s exciting.”
Xhoxhaj did look like a man on a mission when he glared wide-eyed at Billam-Smith in their face-off.
He is threatening to deliver a knockout. Xhoxhaj said: “I was expecting for a long time to come to England and box here because it’s a place where boxing is at home.
“I am a visitor here and I will not leave it to the judges’ decision.”
Billam-Smith knows he cannot afford to relax. For him this fight is a risk.
“I do a little light sweat out tonight, making weight tomorrow is comfortable for me,” Billam-Smith said. “Then it’s just about refuelling, relaxing, just spending time switching off and then at the right time switching on. Being aware of what’s to come.
“The motivation is huge. What’s next for me is a hometown fight for a world title at the dream venue. That’s the dangling carrot and that’s why I’ve got to perform and why I can’t take my eye off this week and this event on Saturday night.
“[Xhoxhaj] can be dangerous if you’re not switched on. He comes forward. He throws lots of shots. He’s got a really good right hand. So it’s about staying switched on in this fight and performing really well and not giving anything away and controlling the fight from the very first moments.
“If you play with fire you’re going to get burned. That’s what I’ve got to be aware of and not let him fight his fight too much.
“I’ve got to be able to adapt and adapt through the fight and do what’s right for me.”
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