Leigh Wood and Chris Billam-Smith win world titles with victories over familiar foes

Wood avenged a knockout by Mauricio Lara to reclaim his featherweight belt, while Billam-Smith beat ex-sparring partner Lawrence Okolie

Alex Pattle
Combat Sports Correspondent
Tuesday 06 June 2023 18:25 BST
Chris Billam-smith Reflects On Fairytale Title Win At AFC Bournemouth Ground

Leigh Wood and Chris Billam-Smith enjoyed successful evenings against familiar foes on Saturday, winning world titles in their respective fights.

Wood avenged a knockout loss to Mauricio Lara by outpointing the Mexican in Manchester, regaining the WBA featherweight title that he lost in the pair’s first clash. Meanwhile, Billam-Smith was a decision victor over former sparring partner Lawrence Okolie, winning the WBO cruiserweight title at the stadium that is home to his beloved AFC Bournemouth.

Wood, 34, was fighting in his hometown of Nottingham when he lost the WBA featherweight belt to Lara in February, as the Mexican won with a controversial TKO in Round 7. However, Lara was stripped of the title on Friday (26 May) after failing to make weight for his rematch with Wood, who was the only fighter eligible to win the gold in Saturday’s main event.

And Wood, who was leading his first fight with Lara at the time of the stoppage, got out ahead of the 25-year-old again in Manchester. This time, the Briton scored a knockdown in Round 2 and was able to stay composed through the remaining rounds, earning a unanimous-decision win (118-109, 118-109, 116-111).

Wood (right) knocked down Lara en route to a decision victory (Getty Images)

Meanwhile, at Vitality Stadium – home to Premier League club Bournemouth – Billam-Smith won a scrappy majority decision against Okolie to claim his first world title.

Billam-Smith, in front of a raucous home crowd, knocked down his ex-sparring partner three times, while Okolie also had two points docked for excessive holding. It all led to scorecards of 112-112, 116-107, 115-108 in favour of Billam-Smith.

“The Gentleman” then dedicated the win to his mother, who is suffering from breast cancer, and his son, who turned one year old on Friday.

Elsewhere, Michael Conlan did not have such a happy homecoming. The Northern Irishman, fighting in his hometown of Belfast, was stopped by Luis Alberto Lopez in the fifth round. Mexican Lopez dropped Conlan with a vicious uppercut, and the towel came in as Conlan struggled to find his bearings.

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