Former cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson believes Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium provides an edge to Chris Billam-Smith, but the Sky Sports pundit is still tabbing Lawrence Okolie to come away with the win.
Okolie will defend his WBO cruiserweight belt against former sparring partner Billam-Smith on Saturday night.
Adding to the storyline of the fight, Billam-Smith is trained by Okolie’s former coach Shane McGuigan.
Okolie saw action back in March when he bagged a one-sided twelve round unanimous decision win over mandatory challenger David Light. The victory snapped a near one-year layoff.
The champion is the big favorite – but Billam-Smith has the home ground advantage.
“It could be a massive help, because when you’re in this kind of pressure, some people – when the pressure is on them – their confidence isn’t completely there,” Nelson told Sky Sports News.
“When everybody is on you, you can’t deal and perform under pressure. But I think Chris Billam-Smith, he steps up to that, and we saw that the last time he boxed there in Bournemouth [vs Armend Xhoxhaj, December 2022]. He rose to the occasion, and when he got the job done, it was an emphatic knockout. How much would you want a knockout in front of your home fans?
“Remember, he moved promotional camps because he wanted to box at home in front of his own fans. Now, he’s got what he wished for. But fighting at a stadium…talk about be careful what you wish for. He’s got exactly that. He is the talk of the town, and he will be a Bournemouth celebrity if he pulls this off.”
At the same time, Nelson is backing Okolie to leave the arena as champion at the end of the night.
“I’m going to have to go with paperwork. And paperwork tells me Lawrence Okolie. He has that punch power, and a proven track record. Chris Billam-Smith on Saturday night, everything has to fall into place. He has to grow up and no longer be the student of Lawrence Okolie, he has to take over,” Nelson said.
“So all the ask is on Chris Billam-Smith. Everything is in place for him to do it, and Lawrence Okolie has decided to go into the lions’ den and say: ‘I’ll have this’, but I’m siding towards Okolie.”