WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith will look to build off of one of 2023’s biggest upsets when he defends his title against veteran Mateusz Masternak on December 10th in his native Bournemouth.
The bout airs on Sky Sports in the UK and, presumably, Peacock in the States; can’t imagine it being among the “select events” on NBC proper.
Billam-Smith (18-1, 12 KO), unbeaten since a 2019 split decision loss to Richard Riakporhe, worked his way into title contention with strong domestic wins over Tommy McCarthy and Isaac Chamberlain. His efforts culminated in a May clash with Lawrence Okolie, which turned into one of the weirdest and ugliest fights in recent memory. Billam-Smith ultimately emerged victorious after Okolie hit the deck three times and lost two points for excessive holding.
BOXXER’s plan seemed to be for Billam-Smith to fight Masternak (47-5, 31 KO) while Riakporhe, his top contender, challenged Jai Opetaia to potentially set up a unification rematch. Masternak turned down a shot at Opetaia in favor of Billam-Smith, but then Riakporhe also turned Opetaia down, so who knows what was supposed to happen.
In any event, Poland’s Masternak got stopped by Grigory Drozd in 2013 but has yet to suffer a decisive defeat since. He dropped a split decision to Youri Kayembre Kalenga, suffered a robbery loss to Johnny Muller, fell just short against Tony Bellew, then lost another close decision to Yuniel Dorticos in 2018. He’s a quality operator and a good opponent for Billam-Smith’s first defense.
“Mateusz Masternak is a superb fighter, he’s proved that throughout his career. He’s got double the amount of fights that I have – he’s actually got more KO wins than I have fights – and his only losses are at the very top level. His style matches well with mine and I think it’s going to be a very exciting fight, I’m really looking forward to it,” said Billam-Smith.
Masternak said: “I think Chris Billam-Smith is a very good boxer. He showed his warrior soul in his last fight and proved that he deserves to be champion. I have a lot of respect for him in that way, but I believe more in my skills and my experience. I’ve been dreaming of the world championship since I started boxing. My boxing journey has been like a movie, all the highs and lows. I hope in December we get the best scene. I’m looking forward to fighting in England again, the fans create a great atmosphere there.”