Bournemouth’s hometown hero Billam-Smith had always been pencilled in for a huge May main event at the Vitality Stadium, home of the Premier League Cherries, but a potential opponent remained a mystery before it surprisingly emerged that Okolie was willing to take on the challenge just two months after his comeback win over David Light.
‘The Sauce’ has held the WBO title at 200lbs since 2021, yet spent more than a year out of the ring following a mundane defence against Michal Cieslak last February after an ugly split with promoters Matchroom Boxing and Eddie Hearn and a subsequent move to Ben Shalom’s Boxxer.
Unbeaten Okolie also linked up with a new trainer in SugarHill Steward after ditching Shane McGuigan in a tumultuous period, but another low-key victory over a game challenger in New Zealander Light, who subsequently suffered a mild stroke, has done little to drive back any momentum.
The Londoner knows he needs a big fight and a statement performance to put himself back on the right trajectory, and he gets that this weekend.
Former Commonwealth and European title-holder Billam-Smith is an exciting, experienced and heavy-handed test for Okolie, looking to realise his own world title dreams having won a trio of electric bouts against Tommy McCarthy, Isaac Chamberlain and Armend Xhoxhaj in 2022, including a highlight-reel knockout of the former in front of a raucous home crowd at the Bournemouth International Centre before Christmas.
Okolie vs Billam-Smith date, start time, venue and ring walks
Okolie vs Billam-Smith takes place today on Saturday May 27, 2023 at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, with the capacity expanded on the night from 12,000 to 15,000 seats.
The undercard is due to begin at 7pm BST, with main event ring walks expected at approximately 10pm. As ever, exact timings are subject to change.
Okolie vs Billam-Smith fight card/undercard in full
Lawrence Okolie vs Chris Billam-Smith
Mikael Lawal vs Isaac Chamberlain
Sam Eggington vs Joe Pigford
Lee Cutler vs Stanley Stannard
Karriss Artingstall vs Jade Taylor
Tommy Welch vs Amine Boucetta
Michael McKinson vs Lebin Morales
Lewis Edmondson vs Vladimir Belujsky
Mace Ruegg vs Dean Dodge
How to watch Okolie vs Billam-Smith
TV channel: Okolie vs Billam-Smith is being broadcast live in the UK on Sky Sports, with coverage beginning on Sky Sports Action at 7pm and Sky Sports Main Event at 8pm.
Live stream: Subscribers can also watch live online via the Sky Go app.
Live coverage: You can follow the whole card live with Standard Sport’s dedicated blog.
Okolie vs Billam-Smith prediction
Okolie is the obvious favourite to retain his WBO belt for the fourth time on Saturday, though he will surely not be able to coast to the finish line in somewhat dull fashion as he has now in back-to-back wins over Cieslak and Light.
Naturally it will take a while for Okolie to show the benefits of his new partnership with Steward, but he needs to start generating more excitement quickly if he is to realise his grand plans for unifying the cruiserweight division and potentially joining the heavyweight ranks.
If the champion does show any signs of slugishness this weekend, then Billam-Smith is surely well-placed to take advantage. As a friend and former sparring partner of Okolie’s, hence the complete lack of any of the usual animosity or needle in the build-up to this fight, he possesses real knowledge of his weaknesses and how best to exploit them.
The fact that Billam-Smith - whose only professional loss to date came on points against Richard Riakporhe in 2019 - is still trained by McGuigan adds another intriguing sub-plot to the contest, with Shane having insisted that he knows exactly how to beat his former charge.
Ultimately Billam-Smith’s explosive nature means win or lose he won’t allow this to be a boring bout in front of an adoring home crowd at a packed-out stadium, with his aggressive approach potentially set to coax a fiery performance from Okolie at long last.
Billam-Smith has never previously been stopped, but that could well change here in a valiant effort as he goes for broke to try and spring an upset.
Okolie to win by late knockout.
Okolie vs Billam-Smith weigh-in results
The weigh-in for Saturday night’s card took place in Bournemouth on Friday afternoon, with Okolie and Billam-Smith both coming in on weight at 199lbs. The cruiserweight limit is 200lbs.
A monumental all-British stadium fight is FINALLY locked in 🔒🔥@Lawrenceokolie v @chrisbillam at @officialafcb in front of 15,000. Let's go 💪#OkolieBillamSmith | Tomorrow | @skysportsboxing | @whodaresgyms_official @joseph_ashford_ellis @wowhydrate pic.twitter.com/uA3wAqVpmx
— BOXXER (@boxxer) May 26, 2023
Okolie vs Billam-Smith betting odds
Okolie to win: 1/4
Billam-Smith to win: 11/4
Okolie to win by KO or TKO: 10/11
Billam-Smith to win by KO or TKO: 8/1
Okolie to win by points or decision: 5/2
Billam-Smith to win by points or decision: 5/1
Odds via Betfair (subject to change).