Chris Billam-Smith and his trainer Shane McGuigan hailed the best performance of his career after he eased to victory over Richard Riakporhe in the second defence of his WBO cruiserweight title. 

Riakporhe had inflicted Billam-Smith’s only defeat when he earned a split decision over him in 2019, but at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park, in an occasion that in so many respects had been set up for Riakporhe to earn victory, Billam-Smith earned one score of 116-111 and two others of 115-112 and often made his challenger look one-dimensional.

There had been moments in the opening rounds when the authority of the 34-year-old Riakporhe’s jab and his raw power meant he appeared to pose a considerable threat, but Billam-Smith adjusted to largely negate his potential, and to consistently outwork him over the course of 12 largely one-sided rounds.

“Yeah,” Billam-Smith, also 34, responded when asked if he had just produced his best performance. When he won his title from Lawrence Okolie he did so in an unusual nature of fight, and when he defended it against Mateusz Masternak he had been somewhat less convincing.

“Me, Shane and Josh [Pritchard, McGuigan’s assistant] had a chat earlier, just to calm the nerves, and I’d like to think I boxed it to a tee. I’m really pleased with the performance.

“[My] experience; the speed; the game plan. Shane is a master – he’s the best coach in the world and I’d like to dedicate that win to Nika McGuigan who passed away after our first fight with Richard and I was absolutely gutted to not be able to do that back then.

“He caught me once with [his right hand]. He can punch, and he can punch with his left hand as well, but the game plan was spot on from Shane and I’m really pleased with how I executed it.

“[Avenging defeat was] very satisfying . Some of the inside work got missed [by the judges] because I thought [I won] eight-four at worst, to be honest. He never really landed anything. His big shots came downstairs but the right man won. But Richard is a great fighter – forget all the build-up, we’re at Crystal Palace and they’ve got four players out tomorrow night [for England] and I’ll definitely be a Palace fan then, that’s for sure. I got a lot of respect for Richard – he’s a great fighter – he’ll have learnt from that and he'll go on to great things.

“I just really wanted to get the game plan right. No camp is easy but there were a few difficulties the last few weeks of camp but me, Shane and Josh had a chat and I just listened and that was going through my head the whole fight.”

In the build-up to Saturday’s fight McGuigan had dismissed suggestions Billam-Smith was in decline, and the trainer said: “Sometimes he has a great performance or a lacklustre performance but when he’s ready and his back’s against the wall that’s when you see the best Chris Billam-Smith. And from a lacklustre performance against Masternak, which was tactical nightmare, to what he did… 

“He never slipped up; never lost his shape; he frustrated him. He landed the shots and he won the fight so wide I was surprised at the scorecards.

“This might be Chris Billam-Smith’s best performance when we reflect back on his whole career.

“I felt like it was ten-two maybe nine-three on the cards. It was not a competitive fight. He won the fight on the triggers to get the jab off, shooting from side to side. He executed it for 12 rounds.

“We all love Chris but we know he loves a tear-up and after three or four well-executed rounds he has a go and goes for the finish – but I was so proud of him. He was so disciplined. Riakporhe has got world-class power – very good fighter – but he can’t fight on the back foot and he can’t fight when you stay nice and low and you nudge him back. It was perfect execution.”

Billam-Smith also spoke of his desire to fight Gilberto Ramirez in the US, and his promoter Ben Shalom said: “Never, ever, ever bet against Chris Billam-Smith. Every single time he comes through. 

“He was levels – absolutely levels – above tonight. He’s here for a reason and he wants unifications next and he wants to fight in the States, which means that [Gilberto] Ramirez is the likely possibility. 

“But we hear a lot of talk about [Jai] Opetaia as well. He wants the big fights and he’s proven he’s deserved them. Another fantastic performance; the best I’ve seen him, and unification comes next.”