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FOR Bournemouth’s own Chris Billam-Smith, there is quite simply no place like home.
A total of 1,324 days will have passed before the man nicknamed ‘The Gentleman’ will finally make a special homecoming against Isaac Chamberlain on Saturday, July 30.
Billam-Smith has constantly expressed his desire to fight in Bournemouth once again but as his career has skyrocketed, it has taken him all across the country with titles on the line.
Now with the European and Commonwealth belts to his name, the 31-year-old cruiserweight will finally get his wish – and had to make some tough business decisions on the way to doing so.
Billam-Smith’s past eight televised contests have been promoted on cards staged by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.
But when Sky Sports and Boxxer offered the former Poole ABC man the chance to perform at the BIC this summer, he simply could not turn down the opportunity.
“It means everything and it was sort of the reason that I didn’t renew my contract with Matchroom – because I wanted a home fight and they couldn’t do that due to DAZN,” Billam-Smith told the Daily Echo, when asked about a switch of promotions.
“I think Eddie wanted to do it but DAZN are a global platform. They want world title fights or massive names.
“I am not fighting for a world title yet and I am not a massive name yet. That was that and it meant so much for me to box back home, I had to go elsewhere.
“Thankfully, we have got this fight over the line. It’s just a one-fight deal with Sky and it’s exciting times.”
Quizzed on whether he left Matchroom on good terms, the Shane McGuigan-trained star said: “For sure. Coming home meant so much to me.
“Before the (Tommy) McCarthy fight they offered me a three-fight deal, McCarthy being the first of that.
“But I turned it down because I want to box back home and that was the only condition I really cared about in the contract.
“With Matchroom, I am very grateful for everything they have done and it was just, for this fight, I wanted to come back home. It made sense.
“Now, it’s just about focusing on this fight, getting the job done and I’m sure there will be plenty of doors open.”
Chamberlain is someone who is well known to Billam-Smith. His only loss in the professional ranks came against the Dorset fighter’s stablemate Lawrence Okolie in February 2018.
“He is a good fighter. He has been a bit inactive – I think he has only had six rounds in the past three-and-a-half years or so,” said Billam-Smith, when asked about his latest opponent.
“He has only lost to Lawrence on points. I am not sure he has ever been dropped, other than in that fight.
“But I know he is always in the gym. He is always training. He has a lot of skill, a lot of attributes and style-wise it’s a completely new style for me and how I have been fighting.
“I think we sparred twice before but that was within my first six months of being a pro. He seems very respectful and I am sure we will both focus on our training and get down to business.”
And while he has been focused on preparing for his 17th professional contest, Billam-Smith has also welcomed new-born son Frank into the world with wife Mia to become a dad for the first time.
“It’s amazing. It’s such a strange experience, such an amazing experience and I am just more motivated than ever,” when asked about fatherhood.
“I am absolutely loving being a dad. It’s amazing.
“Mia is up in London with me, with Frank this week. The last four weeks up in London I will be up there on my own, Monday-to-Friday (to prepare for fight night).
“I have always said it’s not a sacrifice when you are training and not going out, but it’s definitely a sacrifice being away from your family.
“But you have to make sure you are getting enough sleep and doing all of those things, so those sacrifices need to be made for sure.”
As well as Billam-Smith, the likes of SK4 fighters Joe Pigford and Lee Cutler will also be on the bill in Bournemouth – the latter is set to fight for the vacant WBO European super welterweight title.
Unbeaten Caroline Dubois and Hassan Azim are also on the Boxxer card.
You can join the pre-sale waiting list for tickets to the event at Boxxer.com
(Pictures: Matchroom Boxing)