‘Superior person’ Chris Billam-Smith can shock Lawrence Okolie because the WBO world champion has ‘self-preservation stamped on his forehead’.
That is the opinion of Okolie’s former coach Shane McGuigan, who will be in Billam-Smith’s corner this weekend in Bournemouth.
The 2016 Olympian puts his title on the line in a voluntary defense against his former stable mate and training partner Billam-Smith at the Vitality Stadium, home of AFC Bournemouth, on Saturday.
Okolie, who left the McGuigans’ Gym last summer, is the overwhelming favorite with oddsmakers. He is 19-0 with 14 KOs and has never looked even remotely close to losing a fight at any point during his career.
But McGuigan believes that CBS’ ability to dig deep will be the key to victory on the south coast.
The trainer said: “He’s naturally a tougher man than Lawrence. He’s naturally more brave.
“Lawrence has ‘self preservation’ stamped on his forehead. He doesn’t want to go to the well and that’s why he boils himself down from 108kg to 90kg instead of moving to heavyweight. It’s so he has an advantage. In everything Lawrence does he always wants an advantage. He always wants to be one step ahead.
“He does have a massive advantage here - he’s physically a much bigger specimen than Chris. He’s stronger than him when you get him in the weights room, he punches harder than him. All of these things favor Lawrence but in mindset, Chris is a much superior person. And, also, he can go in there and put himself on the line.
“But that’s why Lawrence is always in the fights he is in. He is either boring the place out or knocking them out with one shot - because he’s got the power. There is no in between. He’s never thinking it through or breaking someone down. It’s always either he blitzes them or hits them with a few good shots, they weather it, and he wins in a boring, messy way.”
Challenger Billam-Smith is 17-1 (12) and has won British, Commonwealth and European cruiserweight titles and has been desperate for a crack at world honors.
The only defeat of his career came against Richard Riakporhe back in 2019 and he has been steadily rebuilding and improving under McGuigan ever since.
“Lawrence has something that Chris wants,” McGuigan said. “How many more fringe world level fighters can Chris box? If Chris gets the game plan right, it’s a winnable fight for sure.
“It’s up to us to ensure we can negate what he does well. First off, get through the first three or four rounds. If we do that we can chip away, land a few good shots and then make sure we negate what he does well. We know what we have to do to get success in this fight. It’s whether Chris can consistently execute that for the 12 rounds. If he can, I think he can chip away at him.
“We know what we have to do. It’s a world title fight, at home in front of 15,000 people. Out of the champions at cruiserweight, I favor us against Lawrence because we know him well. I know what his weaknesses are mentally and physically. It means we can go in there with a structured game plan to give ourselves the best opportunity.
“We have prepared for the best version of Lawrence Okolie and I believe the best version was in our gym anyway. Chris has done 200+ rounds of sparring with the best version of Lawrence so we know what we’ve got to do.”
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