Shane McGuigan hits back at Richard Riakporhe’s claim ahead of cruiserweight showdown at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park

Shane McGuigan has hit back at claims by Richard Riakporhe that his fighter Chris Billam-Smith is on the decline.

The two cruiserweights clash at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park on Saturday night.

Walworth’s Riakporhe is unbeaten and holds a split decision points win over Billam-Smith when the pair were both emerging prospects in 2019 at Greenwich’s o2 Arena.

But Billam-Smith has since rebounded to win the Commonwealth and European belts before taking the WBO world title off Lawrence Okolie in May 2023.

Riakporhe was unimpressed by the Bournemouth man’s first defence when Mateusz Masternak looked to be winning on points before pulling out at the end of the eighth round with a rib injury.

The South Londoner has claimed that Billam-Smith is now taking too many punches.

“It’s a narrative he is trying to spin,” McGuigan, who trains the champion, told Sky Sports Boxing. “He’s a fighter who doesn’t like to get hit. Chris is happy to take a shot to land his own – he’s happy to take two, sometimes, to land his own.

“He knows what he has to do to get the result while Riakporhe is quite happy to sit back – watch the pace of every fight (he has had), it’s all slow. He has managed his career with the right opponents in his favour well.

“The two people that fought at pace unsettled him, which is Jack Massey and Chris Billam-Smith. And we’ve now got 12 rounds, not 10 rounds. He has now got the experience and he is punching harder.

“He has got the belief in himself. Richard Riakporhe is trying to clutch at straws. He’s looking at the fact he has got cut a few times in his fights but also, let’s just take into consideration, Lawrence Okolie thought he was just going to walk through Chris Billam-Smith. Chris had one of his worst performances just before he boxed Okolie and came out and gave his best performance afterwards.

“He didn’t have a very good fight against Masternak, a guy who is 37 or 38 years of age – had over 50 fights and a handful of losses. It’s easy to take your eye of the ball when you go back from a 15,000 to 3,000 arena. He is now going back into the lions’ den and he’s got the challenger’s mentality, even though he is the champion.

“He is going in there to prove a point because he has spent his whole career proving a point. People didn’t even think he was going to get to British level. Now he is a world champion, about to make his second defence against a guy who has already beaten him.”


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