Angel Fernandez recognises that Chris Billam-Smith has to be considered the favourite for his rematch this summer with Richard Riakporhe.

The rivals are on course to contest Billam-Smith’s WBO cruiserweight title at a venue to be confirmed in London in June, five years after Riakporhe inflicted Billam-Smith’s only defeat, via split decision.

If both fighters have since improved – Fernandez’s confidence in the 34-year-old Riakporhe is such that, having seen the value in another victory over Billam-Smith for Riakporhe’s career, he has long wanted a rematch between them – Billam-Smith has recorded even more notable successes to win his title from Lawrence Okolie and then defend it against Mateusz Masternak, and Riakporhe’s trainer said: “[Billam-Smith’s] definitely the favourite. 

“He’s the champion; he’s been in tough fights. He came out of hard situations and came out on top, and ended up winning. Chris Billam-Smith, lately, showed this heart and desire. It’s going to make a great fight for the British public. We look forward to the challenge, and we will be there in the best shape mentally, physically, and I’m sure they’re going to be doing the same. It’s going to be another great fight for the fans.

“[I’ve wanted the rematch] for a long time. [But before now] it wouldn’t have made sense for him. Now CBS is the champion; Richard is the mandatory. They have history. Both, completely, are gents – in and out of the ring. It just makes sense for them. It makes sense for the British public. If we could make this fight here and keep it here, why not?

“Both men improved. CBS, definitely, has improved a lot. Richard has improved a lot as well – technically; tactically; mentally. He understands a lot – [improved] boxing IQ; a lot of scenarios; how to cut the ring; how not to cut the ring. I could go very deep into all of these little situations. He’s a very intelligent fighter. 

“He loves to learn, and he’s going to be a great fighter. CBS definitely has improved, because if he hadn’t improved he wouldn’t be a champion. That’s going to make for a great fight. Both have improved, compared to the first time they met. CBS is the champion; Richard is the challenger, and we need to go and take the belt from the champion. We’re going to have to do something special.”

Riakporhe and Billam-Smith, 33, were both at Sunday’s British and Commonwealth heavyweight title fight between Fabio Wardley and another Fernandez-trained fighter – Frazer Clarke – which was scored a draw.

“[Riakporhe’s] very focused,” the Loughborough University-based Fernandez continued. “He’s been very focused now for a long time, regardless of if it’s CBS; if it’s not CBS. We don’t really care about who’s in front; who’s the name. 

“My job – and it’s one of my things – we never focus on who’s in front. We just focus on ourselves and do what we need to do, and create each day as a masterpiece, and that’s the mentality that I want in them, because that’s the mentality that I have as a coach. We’re not looking at or past anybody.

“As with Frazer, I’m confident with any of my fighters. I know what we bring to the table. If we don’t get a result, it’s another thing, but I know we’ll go there and we’ll perform.”