The stirring Billam-Smith v Chamberlain encounter can teach everyone a thing or two, writes Matt Christie
THE stirring 12-rounder between Chris Billam-Smith and Isaac Chamberlain at the weekend was everything we wanted it to be and more.
Working full-time in boxing – particularly at Boxing News, where all manner of horrors are brought to your attention on a daily basis – can leave you questioning your affection for such a brutal trade. Then a fight like Billam-Smith vs Chamberlain comes along and, wow, we fall in love with that brutal trade all over again.
Where to start? Well, perhaps right at the beginning when these two fine boxers agreed to fight each other in the first place. There would have been easier routes to ‘world’ title shots, via bogus international titles and comparatively undemanding opposition. Yet they each signed on the dotted line, with the minimum of fuss, confident in their own abilities and each eager to enhance their education in a hard fight. Here in the UK, there is nothing – nothing – that compares to a well-matched domestic showdown.
The setting, on the South Coast of England in the midst of a golden summer, was another masterstroke. We all love York Hall, we’ve grown to appreciate the O2, the Echo Arena, and many other established fight venues in British cities, too. But taking the sport to Bournemouth, the home town of defending European and Commonwealth champion Billam-Smith, only heightened the allure of an already appealing contest. Maybe the transport links aren’t quite as good as more central, landlocked venues, but who doesn’t like a trip to the seaside? The concept of boxing on the coast, for big events, is one that could really enrich the whole experience for ticket-buyers. Why not throw in a trip to the boxing with your weekend away…
Billam-Smith and Chamberlain on the beach (Lawrence Lustig/Boxxer
The real aces in the sleeve were the incredible efforts of the two fighters. They went off at an insane pace inside a hot venue. The second round set the tone for the rest of the contest and, by the end of the third, Chamberlain was quietly nursing a broken orbital bone. Beneath his skin the swelling grew until, in round 11, it split and blood spewed from his eye. He would later spend the night in hospital.
The back-and-forth action was awe-inspiring. Every time it looked like the relentless pressure of Billam-Smith was going to take over, Chamberlain fired back with clever but gutsy attacks. Maybe neither fighter will go on to rule the world but on this night, they gave everything. Absolutely everything.
We should never, ever, forget that. The risks the fighters take and the pain they endure, not only during the fight but following contests as gruelling as that, for days and weeks. But sometimes we do forget. Sometimes we’re too cruel in our observations or we’re too quick to criticise.