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Chris Billam-Smith Fortunate To Retain WBO Cruiserweight Belt As Masternak Quits Match Due To Injury

Chris Billam-Smith Fortunate Retain WBO Cruiserweight Belt As Masternak Quits Match Due To Injury featured image
BOURNEMOUTH, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 10: Chris Billam-Smith (black gloves) of Englan celebrates his win over Mateusz Masternak of Poland by way of TKO through injury for the WBO World Cruiser weight title at Bournemouth International Centre on December 10, 2023 in Bournemouth, England. (Photo by Huw Fairclough/Getty Images)

British champion Chris Billam-Smith successfully defended his WBO cruiserweight title on December 9th against Polish contender Mateusz Masternak. Despite a tough battle for both fighters, Masternak had to retire in the corner due to a rib injury, granting Billam-Smith his first world title defense victory. The match took place at the Bournemouth Arena in Bournemouth, UK, and was promoted by Boxxer, with broadcast coverage on Sky Sports.

Chris Billam-Smith (19-1, 13 KO’s) faced Mateusz Masternak (47-6, 31 KO’s) in his first bout since claiming the WBO cruiserweight title from Lawrence Okolie (19-1, 14 KO’s) on May 27th. Despite Masternak being considered the underdog, he performed well, exposing Billam-Smith’s defensive weaknesses that need attention for him to maintain his WBO champion status or pursue unification with other major belts.

Every round won by Billam-Smith was hard-fought, with Masternak countering effectively against Billam-Smith’s pressure style. Determining the winner of each round was challenging as both fighters increased the intensity when necessary. Notably, Billam-Smith struggled to evade Masternak’s punches, giving the latter confidence to land impactful shots.

Billam-Smith’s forward-pressing strategy seemed mismatched against Masternak’s effective counter and pressure tactics. While Billam-Smith’s clinches were reminiscent of his previous match against Okolie, they were used strategically to stifle Masternak’s offense, proving effective throughout the fight.

Despite appearing behind on the scorecards, Billam-Smith’s body punches took a toll on Masternak, ultimately leading to Masternak retiring on his stool in the eighth round due to a rib injury sustained in the seventh round. Billam-Smith was declared the winner by RTD (referee technical decision or corner retirement/stoppage).

While Billam-Smith’s smart body-focused plan contributed to his victory, his overall defensive shortcomings were evident, raising questions about the outcome if his body punches were less effective. Nevertheless, he successfully completed his first world title defense after winning the WBO cruiserweight title in May.

In other matches on the Boxxer fight card, British welterweight contender Michael McKinson (26-1, 4 KO’s) secured a unanimous decision victory over unbeaten Ghanaian contender Musah Lawson (11-1, 9 KO’s) in a ten-round bout. Light-heavyweight prospect Ben Whittaker (5-0, 4 KO’s) continued his journey toward contention at 175 lbs with a fourth-round technical knockout (TKO) against Italian opponent Stiven Dredhaj (11-3-1, 3 KO’s).

Women’s Welsh welterweight contender Lauren Price (6-0, 1 KO’s) recorded an expected victory over Italian fighter Silvia Bortot (11-4-1, 3 KO’s), who had suffered two losses earlier in the year. Price’s choice of opponents raises questions, considering the competitive women’s welterweight division. Matching up against more formidable contenders would likely benefit her progression rather than facing opponents on losing streaks.