By Jonathan Nagioff (@jonathannagioff)
Chris Billam-Smith extended his perfect professional record to six straight wins with a hard-fought, points victory over Michal Plesnik on Saturday night at the o2 academy.
‘The Gentleman’, headlining Steve Bendall’s ‘The Dawning’ bill stole the show in a pulsating bout which took the Bournemouth Cruiserweight the distance for the first time in his career.
The 27-year-old, who stopped Gheorghe Danut at the same venue in March took a step up in opponent and the dangerous Slovak, Plesnik proved his capability throughout the contest.
Despite being a heavy underdog, Plesnik came out of the blocks quickly and put the pressure on the home favourite, landing some punishing left hooks.
Billam-Smith appeared to feed off the crowd’s support and responded with crushing left-right combinations of his own.
Plesnik, who had only lost two previous fights, continued to come forward and had The Gentleman pinned up to the ropes in a fiery second round.
However, Billam-Smith used his slick ring-craft and head movement to evade the on-rushing Slovak and threw over a lightning left hook, which landed flush on the temple of Plesnik.
Billam-Smith continued to grow in confidence and his jab, which has become his prized weapon was beginning to hit the target more crisply.
The Gentleman, a former Poole ABC prodigy riled in the power punches and as the fight reached the halfway point and Plesnik was starting to unfold after his lightning start.
Billam-Smith could sense that his opponent was tiring and looked to take him out in the fifth. Plesnik fell to the canvas on two occasions and once again in the sixth, but the referee refused to call any knockdowns much to the disappointment of Billam-Smith and his vocal home support.
The Bournemouth man continued to set the pace and increased his combinations in the seventh round, landing with right and left hooks.
Plesnik was doing his upmost to hang in there but this time his plunge to the canvas was met with a count from the referee.
It’s really humbling, it’s really nice to have that support behind you in your home town. It’s just a nice feeling“
The durable Slovak remained in there, as the pair traded blows in an explosive final round just as the previous rounds had played out.
Billam-Smith was in unfamiliar territory as he waited for the scorecards, with all his previous wins coming by stoppage, but despite not recording a knockout The Gentleman cruised to victory by an 80-72 margin.
The o2 crowd gave Billam-Smith a rapturous reception as he left the ring and the fighter praised the home support after the bout.
Billam-Smith told the Bournemouth Rock: “I know with a few people pulling out it wasn’t a sell-out, but it felt like it was.
“The noise is incredible and even after when people were asking for photos.
“It’s really humbling, it’s really nice to have that support behind you in your home town. It’s just a nice feeling.”
Billam-Smith is expected to be next out in September and sees this fight as a great learning curve.
He added: “I have no idea what’s next exactly. It was a tough fight, I’ll have a little rest.
“I felt good tonight. I felt alert I felt sharp. It’s the best I’ve felt and it’s the best I’ve performed.
“Although I didn’t get the stoppage, it was a lot tougher opponent.
“I’ve done 10 rounds in total before tonight and now I’ve just done 8 in one night, so it’s almost doubled my rounds in my career, so its great experience.”
On the undercard, there were wins for Dean Dodge and debutant Jack Hillier, whilst Steve Liddell was narrowly beaten on points in his second professional bow.