Lawrence Okolie can prevail in a tight affair
Lawrence Okolie can prevail in a tight affair

Boxing betting tips: Lawrence Okolie v Chris Billam-Smith on Sky Sports

Chris Oliver previews a huge night of boxing on Saturday, with Lawrence Okolie and Chris Billam-Smith locking horns in a blockbuster bout.

Boxing betting tips: Okolie v Billam-Smith

3pts Michael Conlan to win by decision at 7/5 (bet365)

1pt Lawrence Okolie to win by decision at 13/5 (bet365)

1pt Leigh Wood to win in rounds 7-12 at 16/1 (William Hill)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

Boxing fans have some tricky decisions to make on Saturday night with three world title fights on UK soil all shown by different broadcasters.

Despite the promise of staggered start times of the respective main events, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this could easily have been avoided – especially with no TV shows in Britain next weekend.

On the plus side, we have three cracking headline bouts on our hands, and we’ll start in Bournemouth, where Chris Billam-Smith will have vociferous support as he challenges former gym-mate LAWRENCE OKOLIE for his WBO cruiserweight title on Sky Sports.

Both are success stories of top trainer Shane McGuigan, who turned around Okolie’s stuttering career to guide him to world title glory. Billam-Smith, on the other hand, didn’t turn professional to the fanfare of the former Olympian in the opposite corner, but has improved markedly over the years and very few would have predicted he would be fighting for world honours when he started out.

Happy to play the villain here, Okolie (19-0) has all the advantages, apart from being at home, and is a warm 2/7 favourite to successfully defend his belt for the fourth time. The Hackney man developed a reputation as a fearsome puncher with a string of knockouts over an impressive two-year period between 2019 and 2021, with the clear highlight coming when taking out former champion Krzysztof Glowacki in six rounds to claim the WBO strap.

Sky Bet offer - delete

However, his reputation as a puncher is matched by his notoriety for stinking the place out with his ‘jab and grab’ tactics. When he isn’t given the room to get his shots off, he reverts to tying his opponents up on the inside in scenes more akin to a wrestling match than boxing. His last two fights have fallen into that category, when going the distance with Michal Cieslak and David Light in contests he was heavily favoured to win by knockout.

Conversely, Billam-Smith (17-1), a 7/2 shot here, is rarely in a boring fight and his exciting style has helped him become a big draw on the south coast. An aggressive boxer-puncher, he likes to press the action and isn’t afraid to take one to give one. This was evident in his latest outing in December, when hurt early on by Armend Xhoxhaj before brutally knocking out the Kosovan in the fifth round.

The pair have sparred many rounds together in the McGuigan gym and will know each other inside out. The presence of McGuigan in Billam-Smith’s corner could be vital, as he will know better than anyone what gameplan is needed to beat the champion. On the other hand, Okolie jumped at this opportunity when it was presented and that suggests he believes he has little to fear from the challenger.

Okolie was panned for his performance against Light in early March, but he was entitled to be ring rusty after 13 months out, and a prolonged dispute with former promoters Matchroom won’t have helped either. It was also his first bout with new trainer ‘SugarHill’ Steward, and we can expect better from Okolie this weekend.

Billam-Smith will know he can’t outbox the long, rangy Okolie and will need to be on the front foot from the get-go, looking to constantly apply physical pressure. However, this approach is fraught with danger, as the challenger’s chin has never been too hard to find and when Okolie hits his opponents flush, they tend to stay hit.

Lawrence Okolie
Lawrence Okolie

For all the criticism Okolie has taken, he still hasn’t come remotely close to losing and is a nightmare to fight. His huge wingspan makes it difficult to get in range, and if you do make it past his long jab, then it’s hard to go to work as he wraps his huge frame around you.

Okolie’s power and Billam-Smith face-first approach make the champion to win by stoppage a warm order at a top price of 10/11. Okolie to win in rounds 7-12 is very temping at 12/5, but the big value appears to lie with the visitor retaining his belt via the scorecards. So often when two men have sparred each other extensively, their fights resemble sparring sessions as they know each other so well and they can negate the other’s strengths. I feel that could be the case here and, while it may not be pretty, Okolie can get one over on his old team with a third decision victory on the bounce at 13/5.

Lawrence Okolie v Chris Billam-Smith: Big-fight details

  • Date and venue: Saturday May 27 at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth
  • Main event ringwalks (approx): 2200 BST (undercard begins at 1900 BST)
  • Belts: Okolie's WBO cruiserweight title
  • TV Channel: Sky Sports Main Event
  • Radio: talkSPORT

There are also two featherweight title fights to enjoy this weekend, with LEIGH WOOD’s rematch with Mauricio Lara for the WBA belt in Manchester perhaps the most interesting.

A little over three months ago in his backyard of Nottingham, Wood was boxing beautifully and clearly ahead on the cards when the fight ended in the blink of an eye thanks to a huge left hook from the big-punching Mexican at the end of the seventh round. Wood got back to his feet and the referee was about to let him continue, only for Ben Davidson to throw the towel in with just six seconds remaining in the round.

Debate raged about whether the trainer did the right thing or whether Wood’s head would have cleared in the minute’s break, should he have made it to the end of the round. However, the bottom line is Lara once again found an equaliser and it highlighted just how heavy his hands are. They say, ‘don’t hook with a hooker’ but Wood did just that and paid the price.

Despite arriving as the champion after upsetting the odds with final-round stoppages against Xu Can and Michael Conlan, Wood was a 9/4 underdog in his hometown in February as Lara’s power was fancied by the bookies to prevail again. The Mexican’s reputation for destruction was born when he caused a huge upset with his nine-round beating of Josh Warrington in February 2021, and the brace of three-round knockouts that followed only enhanced it further.

Leigh Wood is fancied to spring a surprise on Saturday night
Leigh Wood in training

The odds are almost identical second time around, with Wood a best of 5/2 and Lara 2/5, and both men will fancy their chances here after the first contest. For Lara, he will know he can take his man out whenever he lands cleanly and will expect to repeat the dose, while Wood set the blueprint for almost seven rounds and should have learnt not to hold his feet and trade at any point.

I can see the cases for both men and that is what makes this rematch so intriguing. Lara by knockout again is a clear favourite at 4/7, but any result is possible in my view and, consequently, my stakes will be kept to a minimum. Lara was visibly tiring at the midway point last time and with rumours of him struggling to make weight this time, he could be vulnerable if this fight makes it to the second half again and it could be worth a small play on Wood to win in rounds 7-12. As he has shown, the Nottingham man carries his power until the later rounds and the stamina concerns of Lara make this a viable value bet.

Mauricio Lara v Leigh Wood 2: Big-fight details

  • Date and venue: Saturday May 27 at the AO Arena in Manchester
  • Main event ringwalks (approx): 2200 BST (undercard begins at 1900 BST)
  • Belts: Lara's WBA world featherweight title
  • TV Channel: DAZN 1 HD (Sky channel 429) and also DAZN's streaming services. Monthly subscription packages start at £9.99.

I have much more confidence about the result in the other featherweight title contest of the night when Luis Alberto Lopez takes on the aforementioned MICHAEL CONLAN, live on BT Sport.

This is Lopez’s first defence of the IBF strap he won with a majority decision victory over Josh Warrington in Leeds at the end of last year. The Mexican opened up an early lead with his awkward, unorthodox style and by the time Warrington had worked it out, his late surge wasn’t enough to retain his belt.

Lopez deserved to have his hand raised, but that fight only confirmed the fears that Warrington has seen better days and Lopez is now the champion everyone wanted a shot at.

Conlan gets first crack and, having just come up short when travelling to Nottingham against Wood, he now gets his big chance at home in Belfast. That could make all the difference for the Olympic bronze medallist, who has proved there is no hangover from the devastating Wood defeat with two good wins over Miguel Marriaga (UD) and Karim Guerfi (KO1) at this same venue.

Despite being the champion, Lopez is a slight underdog at 5/4 to beat Conlan, who can be backed at 4/5, but the bookies seem to see this as close to a 50-50 fight. I don’t, and I believe Conlan will make it second-time lucky for world honours in good style.

Lopez is all about reflexes and throws punches from unusual angles, but he also throws them from a long way back and is ripe for a counter from someone as quick and skilled as Conlan. The local man is vulnerable when dragged into a war, as we saw against Wood, but few featherweights will beat him in a boxing match and that is what is expected here.

A confident switch-hitter with quick feet, Conlan can make full use of his height and reach advantages to tame Lopez with his jab and make him pay with fast counters when the Mexican does open up. Both of Lopez’s defeats came on the scorecards and a similar scenario beckons here, with Conlan fancied to win a clear decision on home turf at 7/5.

Luis Alberto Lopez v Michael Conlan: Big-fight details

  • Date and venue: Saturday May 27 at the SSE Arena in Belfast
  • Main event ringwalks (approx): 2100 BST (undercard begins at 1600 BST)
  • Belts: Lopez's IBF featherweight title
  • TV Channel: BT Sport 1

Posted at 1540 BST on 26/05/23

Safer gambling

We are committed in our support of safer gambling. Recommended bets are advised to over-18s and we strongly encourage readers to wager only what they can afford to lose.

If you are concerned about your gambling, please call the National Gambling Helpline / GamCare on 0808 8020 133.

Further support and information can be found at and

Like what you've read?


Sporting Life
Join for free!
Access to exclusive features all for FREE - No monthly subscription fee
Race Replays
My stable horse tracker
giftOffers and prize draws
newsExclusive content

Next Off

Fixtures & Results

Fetching latest games....