Chris Billam-Smith on Arctic Monkeys, fatherhood and his homecoming conflict with Isaac Chamberlain

One of Chris Billam-Smith’s first vital ventures to the Bournemouth International Centre got here when he ought to have been at college. At 16 years outdated, the hometown teen was drawn to the world by Arctic Monkeys, as Britain’s most fascinating guitar band since Oasis enthralled followers whereas touring their debut album, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. It’s due to this fact truthful to say that the venue carries a sure romance for Billam-Smith.

“I skipped school to queue early,” he tells The Independent, reminiscing on that night from April 2006. “I fell in love with going to gigs and I’ve been to many there since – Stereophonics, Oasis, Dave. Oasis were there two nights, I bought my first guitar the day we queued for tickets, and I went both nights.”

The ‘BIC’, as Billam-Smith says, “is the heart of the town”. It is there that the 31-year-old will headline on Saturday night time, defending his Commonwealth and European cruiserweight titles towards compatriot Isaac Chamberlain.

“All my friends and family will be there, the whole town is supporting. That for me is the pinnacle,” Billam-Smith says, sat behind a restaurant throughout the street from Shane McGuigan’s gymnasium in Leyton, the place he trains. The AFC Bournemouth fan nonetheless goals of combating at his staff’s floor, and “The Gentleman”’s relationship with the membership’s chairman, gamers and employees might but be sure that dream materalises.

“It’s a lot more pressure and a lot more fun [fighting in Bournemouth],” Billam-Smith says. “Fight night is the moment everything comes together for me. That’s why I do it. I went and watched my mate have an amateur fight when I was younger, and everyone – by that I mean 20, 30 of us – was chanting his name. I remember thinking: ‘What a feeling that must be.’

Billam-Smith stopped McCarthy in April, nine months after the pair’s draw

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“Training can be brutal, horrible at times, but I’ve learnt to enjoy the journey more, because that winning feeling is pure elation but lasts probably two weeks max. I think that’s the issue boxers have when they retire; they miss that high and chase it through coming back, drugs, or doing another sport.”

Billam-Smith remains to be in his prime, getting into his combat with Chamberlain – a bout labelled ‘Battle on the Beach’ – on the again of a knockout of Tommy McCarthy in a rematch this April, 9 months after the pair’s cut up draw. Yet the 31-year-old already ponders life after boxing.

“I’m all in, but life’s a game of chess and you’ve got to know your next move,” he says, his Perfect Athlete podcast and ambassadorial function with The Dorset Children’s Foundation being examples of his work outdoors the ring. “I have to be involved in sport in one way or another, whether that’s coaching, agency work or management. I don’t want to stay in boxing too long; I want to win a world title, earn some good money, and then set up the next thing.

“My dad never really wanted me to box, always called it a barbaric sport. I understand that more as I grow up and even now as a dad. There’s a book by Tris Dixon – a great boxing writer and historian – called Damage. It’s about CTE, brain damage in boxing. I read that and it opened my eyes even more. There’s positives and negatives to take from the book for me, because I don’t drink or do drugs, and a lot of people who end up with CTE and brain trauma… it’s partly because they do that.”

Billam-Smith throughout a stoppage victory over Yassine Habachi in 2019

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Billam-Smith’s journey by means of fatherhood remains to be in its infancy, his spouse Mia – an inside designer – having given beginning simply two months in the past.

“It’s been magical really,” Billam-Smith says. “You just mature and become wiser, and life and what it’s about suddenly made sense [when I had a child]. As a kid I didn’t really think about getting married or having kids – probably not even up until my early 20s. But I met my wife when I was 24 and, for me, that sort of changed things.

“I didn’t really understand the concept of marriage; my idea was that if you love someone, you don’t really need marriage, but my wife was like: ‘Even if you do get divorced 30 years later, at least you’ve experienced it.’ I thought, ‘Life’s about experiences,’ and devoting yourself to someone in a marriage made sense the way she put it. As stubborn as I am, she opened my eyes.”

Mia has taken on as many obligations as doable because the beginning of the couple’s son, permitting her husband to arrange as greatest as doable for Saturday’s major occasion.

“She loved boxing before she met me,” Billam-Smith explains. “When I first told her I loved boxing, I was an amateur and had an injury. I didn’t box the first year we were together, it was 53 weeks after our first date that I had my first fight back. I spoke about boxing all the time, but I don’t think she understood. She came and watched my first fight back and I lost. I remember stepping out of the ring and her going: ‘That was amazing!’ I was like: ‘What? I lost.’ But she loved the experience. Now there’s a lot more on the line; it affects her and the little one. More and more nerves have crept in, but she’s supported me throughout. I’m so fortunate to have her.”

Billam-Smith defends his European and Commonwealth cruiserweight titles this Saturday

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The fears that Billam-Smith’s father had about his personal son boxing have crept into “The Gentleman”’s perspective in direction of the longer term. On the prospect of his son boxing, Billam-Smith says: “I wouldn’t mind him training – boxing teaches a lot of good life principles – but I don’t think I’d want him sparring until he was a lot older. At the same time, the older people are, the harder they punch… It’s sort of a catch-22 situation.

“I’d like him to just stay away. There’s easier and more fun ways to make money. The highs are the highest highs, but the lows can be really low, and probably less than one per cent of boxers get out unscathed.”

When the solar goes down over Bournemouth seafront on Saturday, Billam-Smith’s hardest problem up to now will stand throughout from him, between the native lad and the very best of highs. His aspirations of combating for a world title rely largely on whether or not he can navigate the take a look at posted by Chamberlain, who makes the journey from Brixton with 5 straight stoppage wins in his final 5 bouts.

It’s time to seek out out whether or not Billam-Smith is absolutely what folks say he’s, or not.


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