All finished the Chris Bellam Smith circuit – Yalla Match

Chris Bellam Smith was 16 years old when he went to see the Arctic Monkeys in his hometown. This weekend, after 15 eventful years, he will take center stage at the same venue, writes Craig Scott

“I remember sitting in a random parking lot. I think it was my debut week. What car would I be in next? I think it was a Ford Fiesta. Or maybe it was a Vauxhall Astra, I had an old estate I got from my brother. I just finished the press conference to announce that I have signed with Cyclone Promotions. It was my first proper interview.”

A lot has changed since I first spoke to Bournemouth’s Chris Bellam Smith, 15-1 (11), in September 2017. Fortunately, he no longer drives one of these cars, although their (decreasing) value in the days The first of his career he shuttled to and from the Shane McGuigan gym to compete with David Haye, or to advertise himself to the boxing media at that press conference as an unassuming and unfashionably polite addition to the Cruiserweight. The title “Gentleman” certainly stuck.

At the time, Billam-Smith was the latest addition to McGuigan’s small but reliable stable, and it was something of a gamble, a wild card. Now he is the longest-serving member of an impressive team bursting with talent, and seasoned gym champions and her exciting prospects are equally respected. He has no plans to abandon ship, not now or ever. That’s not his style.

One thing left for the ruler of Europe and the Commonwealth, the former British cruiserweight champion, will finally pay off on July 30 when he is live on Sky Sports a professional boxing event in Bournemouth’s seaport. He mentioned his desire to bring big box boxing back to Bournemouth when we spoke in 2017, and against Brixton’s Isaac Chamberlain on the latest Boxxer card, he would have achieved another huge ambition.

With the rise and fall of the city’s football team (and then its rise again), Bellam Smith believes the time is right to get ahead of prime-time sporting events: “Bournemouth wasn’t really a great place for sporting talent when I first started boxing. Obviously we’re doing really well now with football, we’ve got Adam Lallana who started here at Bournemouth and has done amazing things. It’s become more successful in terms of sport and it’s giving the city a real buzz. ”

“I’m in my home town defending my European and Commonwealth titles on Sky Sports, it’s so big when it comes to watching those moments before my first fight. I will be on the same stage as I was 16 years ago after my first ever gig, which was Arctic Monkeys. That’s why I entered the sport. I watched my companion Dean fight and everyone chanted his name. I thought, “This atmosphere, it must be a great feeling.” All these people are there for you. This is a real moment to cherish – I will do just that.

“It was too late notice for the opponent,” the 31-year-old continued. “To be honest, the whole show just came out of nowhere. It’s a good fight [with Chamberlain]Another good local character to share. Between us we all fight each other which I think is great for the department and the sport. That’s what everyone wants. There’s very little at the top right now, and once I win it, it’ll really just be the three of us sitting there without a reservation. I’m so excited to go home to fight, just so excited.”

This fight marks a shift in podium and promoter for the South Coast star, following the departure of Eddie Hearn and DAZN following an eight-fight run with Matchroom Boxing. His latest performance, a violent stoppage for Belfast manager Tommy McCarthy (rsf 8) in a highly anticipated rematch in April this year, signaled the end of their promotional involvement. Bellam Smith has made it clear that he is very grateful to the Hearn and Matchroom, but it is time to shine at Bournemouth.

Despite almost opposite upbringings, Bellam Smith and next rival Chamberlain spent some of their formative years just 14 miles apart, in Tadworth and Brixton respectively. And while Chamberlain experienced grief and loss at an early age due to the violence on the streets of Brixton, Bellam Smith’s childhood took some unusual turns of its own, showing him the value of freedom.

His father worked as a theater for years, called up some Hollywood movies and was very successful in his field, while his mother was a doctor’s receptionist. After moving from Tadworth to Bournemouth when Bellam Smith was three, they “enjoyed a big house with a big garden,” he recalls. Then, at the age of eleven, he was taken to travel to Australia while his peers bought their school uniforms and mourned the end of the summer holidays. It remains one of the greatest experiences of his life.

“My two brothers were 17 and 19, and my parents wanted to travel before I turned 50. We went to Australia and ended up staying eight months; We all traveled in this SUV and stayed in a tent, this little camper bed – I’m surprised I can take it, to be honest! Every now and then we would reward ourselves in one of the cabins and it was an absolute luxury. We traveled from Perth, all the way to the West Coast, it was crazy.”

“Looking back, it seemed so normal to me until I got older and realized it wasn’t. Normal The thing parents do: Get their kids out of school for a year,” he laughed as he thought about the practicalities of such a trip as an adult and a new parent. “I spent a lot of time on my own; I had this BMX, and I just remember every campground, I said, ‘No – I can’t stay in that, it didn’t have a BMX track.’ I think it was just freedom. One of my favorite places we stayed at didn’t have electricity, so it didn’t have a toilet. Just a “rabbit” as they like to call it. We used to cook on a gas stove all the time, stuff like that. Basically it was a national park and it was pitch black at night. I have never seen so many stars.”

All this before boxing, as Bellam Smith turned his attention to fighting relatively late. He signed his first professional contract at the age of 27 after two failed attempts to win the ABA titles (he lost to Cheavon Clark and Viddal Riley), and when we spoke in 2017, he was not a man who seemed destined for the championships. . Confidence blossomed slowly but surely under McGuigans guidance and despite losing that freedom he valued when he was 11 in the Outback, he thrived on discipline and development: “I’ve always been very helpful, I’ve always been always a very good listener. I can learn – I just had to learn the right things.

“I was very happy that Shane took me. Not many people get this kind of opportunity; I know Olympians who haven’t. I did a lot of sparring rounds with George [Groves] and David [Haye]Luckily Shane said “yes”, otherwise I wouldn’t be in the situation I’m in now. I think we gained trust in each other, really from a personal and professional point of view. Personally, I always believed in Shane as a trainer after seeing what he did with Carl Frampton and George Groves back then. When I saw what he did during camp, at the gym, the things he did with Josh Taylor, I knew that’s where I wanted to be.

He continued: “On a personal level there was a lot going on, he was there for me as a friend and vice versa; There is absolutely no reason to leave the gym. Jake, Barry, you have become so close to the whole family through very difficult times. It naturally brings you closer to people. Shane is the boss when it comes to the career and I’m not someone who would consider leaving – although others have. They have always been good to me and given me the opportunity. They developed my career wonderfully and no complaints from my side; I hope the same will be said about me.”

Chris Bellam Smith hits the road with his trainer Shane McGuigan (Dave Thompson Match Roomboxing)

Fighting Isaac Chamberlain at Bournemouth still carries a risk – but that’s what he shares. Since bursting onto the domestic scene, Bellam Smith has twice fought Tommy McCarthy, Craig Glover, Nathan Thorley and Richard Ryakborough (his only loss as a professional) and added some solid European tests. His recovery from that one career defeat was widely praised: This is boxing, let’s move on, we have to earn our place again.

Now, high atop boxing’s often controversial sanctioning bodies, world titles are out of reach. But the biggest difference in Billam Smith’s life wasn’t rising to the top of the rankings or adding another shiny shoulder strap. It was the birth of his first child, little Frank Bellam Smith, who was born to the fighter and his wife, Mia, just over six weeks ago.

“Life makes sense as soon as he is born. It’s a crazy, crazy feeling. It’s something you don’t understand until you experience it yourself, I don’t think so. I talked about my dad earlier and I have a lot to live for, so if I can do all those good parts, I’ll be fine. He is only young and I am now away from them during the weeks from Monday to Friday. It’s just more motivation, more love, it’s just a great feeling. People ask, “Will he design?” I don’t want him to do that. I’d like him to practice, and hopefully by the time he realizes what I’ve done for a living, so I hope he’s never addicted to it.”

This camp specifically talked about eliminating distractions, despite other mouth pressure to feed at home. He knows Isaac Chamberlain is coming to win, and is looking forward to seizing the opportunity to return from the boxing wilderness. This is the Brixton man’s second major fight after his disappointment at London’s O2 Arena in 2018, and Bellam Smith knows exactly what to expect: “He’s got good hands, good shooting versatility, he’s strong, he’s durable, he’s strong and he is also smooth. . It will be completely different from other styles you have come across before. He’s a very good fighter and he just lost to Lawrence [Okolie] At points, which not many people do. It’s a new mystery for me and a new style for me to deal with.”

Okolie, the WBO cruiserweight belt holder, is now a stable team-mate of the Bournemouth man, but “The Gentleman” confirmed they are still taking notes on preparation for Chamberlain, the second joint opponent, after he dropped the ball to Ross Henshaw in round one threw, had to compare. . Okolie is a different show now – undefeated and fun, not as raw as it was when the duo battled out of South London four years ago. Bellam Smith was vocal about the other fellow gym goers at McGuigan’s, calling Eli Scotney a “ball of light”, and spoke highly of the explosive big brothers, Robbie Davis Jenner, Anthony Fowler, and the Dubois- brothers. Now he’s the old man there, and you get the feeling he’s thoroughly enjoying it—this is his Medal of Honor.

On July 30, Bellam Smith will look to extend the team’s impressive run with the added pressure of doing so in front of their home fans, having successfully brought boxing back to Bournemouth. It’s a change from the London fight nights he’s used to, but a lot has changed – he doesn’t actually have a car at the moment, in case you were wondering. But right now, he’s back where he belongs, and is one step closer to reaching the pinnacle of boxing. “I know what I want, I know where I can go, I know what I can do. There is a level of feeling good about where I am now and the journey I am on. I think if you had told me at the time that this was going to happen, I would have said, “Well – that’s cool.” You’re always getting a little closer, so when you get there, it doesn’t seem like a huge leap. Once you have achieved something, it seems easy because you have achieved it. It’s always about looking for the next target.”

Leave a Comment