Chris Billam-Smith’s trainer Shane McGuigan admitted the possibility of a rematch with Richard Riakpohe has always been on the horizon.

The boxers meet today (June 15) almost five years after their first encounter, which Riakporhe won over 10 rounds with both 9-0. Now, at 19-1 (Billam-Smith) and 17-0 (Riakporhe) the return is on at Selhurst Park stadium with Billam-Smith’s WBO cruiserweight title on the line.

“It’s been nearly five years now. Of course, it was always going to be on our radar,” McGuigan said. “Chris has been doing everything right, he’s been taking the challenges that Riakporhe hasn’t been doing and I think the only time Chris feels frustrated is because Richard feels owed and out of the two of them, Chris is the one who’s made the fights happen. 

“Richard had the opportunity to box Lawrence Okolie and to box Jai Opetaia, and chose against both of them. I know you might say about certain circumstances, but really the truth is he didn’t quite fancy himself in those fights, and now he feels confident because he’s boxing a guy that’s a world champion who in his head he’s beaten before, even though it’s five years ago.”

Riakporhe contends that he has never turned a fight down, but the fight with Billam-Smith is the 34-year-old’s first chance to win a world title. Riakporhe says he has improved, but CBS is arguably one of the sport’s most-improved fighters.

Discussing Billam-Smith and Riakporhe’s first fight, McGuigan recalled: “Chris was moving round and didn’t know how to pace himself in that first fight. Richard was coming out winging. Richard’s become a lot cuter with his attacks, he sets things up better, he’s a lot more patient, and Chris has learned how to manage rounds and manage his engine, manage the pace and he’s a lot more confident in his ability to stand in the pocket and work.”

The cruiserweights, including Billam-Smith and Opetaia, all want unification fights. Billam-Smith sees himself as the best in the world at the weight, but with Riakporhe on the horizon, McGuigan will not entertain discussions of the team’s long-term plans.

“It’s not even about June 15, it’s about tomorrow in training,” said Boxing News’ Trainer of the Year. “That’s the way I look at it. I’ve had fighters be on the verge of having to pull out of world title fights, huge money fights, pay-per-view fights, and it’s like, ‘Is he fit to box? Is he not? Is there a cut?’ So every day in the gym, you’ve got to be on it. You can’t just think about June 15. You’ve got to think about tomorrow and sparring. Get through tomorrow’s sparring. Get through Friday’s track session. Things like that.

“That’s the way you’ve got to be. Obviously as a manager of Chris, you have to look long-term, but for me as a coach, it’s get through this one. This is a dangerous fight. It’s a hell of a lot on the line. There’s Chris’s boxing career and his family’s future, it’s really important.”

Billam-Smith’s confidence is high and McGuigan does not think that Riakporhe is the best man they have faced together. McGuigan feels that the Bournemouth champion’s win over Lawrence Okolie represented a greater degree of difficulty than Riakporhe in London.

“No. I think Lawrence Okolie is,” McGuigan said. “I believe Lawrence Okolie beats Richard Riakporhe and I believe Lawrence Okolie would have beaten Richard Riakporhe last May [when Billam-Smith won the belt].”

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