POOLE heavyweight Chris Billam-Smith will launch his assault on national championship honours fresh from sparring with former world title contender George Groves.
Billam-Smith is aiming to make it third time lucky at this weekend’s Elite National Championships in Rotherham, starting at today's quarter-final stage.
He had his domestic dream wrenched from him last year, being outpointed by London-based pugilist Chev Clarke.
That body blow came three years after Billam-Smith was on the wrong side of the verdict in his first English showpiece, against Jack Massey in the cruiserweight division.
Massey has since turned professional and assembled a hitherto flawless record. But Billam-Smith is intent on reaching his amateur holy grail before he makes his own decision on whether to join the paid ranks.
He told the Daily Echo: “This is the biggest domestic competition we have. The winners’ list reads like a who’s who of boxing: Carl Froch, Ricky Hatton, George Groves won it three times. It would be an enormous honour to join them.
“I sparred six rounds with Groves last week and it is always hard against him. You have to be patient and stay switched on. He has long arms, he is powerful and has an exceptionally good jab.
“It is great to get in the ring with people of that quality because you have to be alert for every second of every round.”
Billam-Smith is seeded second for the competition, behind defending champion Clarke, who represented his native Jamaica in the 2014 Commonwealth Games before switching allegiance and securing a Great Britain squad place.
The two men, then, are slated to lock horns in the final for a second consecutive year. Billam-Smith, though, insists he cannot afford to think beyond his opening contest.
He said: “I have been preparing for every eventuality. There are 6ft 6in lads in the draw, short lads, all different types of fighters – I could meet any of them.
“I am just excited now. I am on weight, which is important.
“When you have to weigh in on three successive days it is vital to get there early. It means you can have your fight and still eat afterwards.
“Some kids I know will struggle. They will fight and then skip food afterwards to keep their weight down.
“I will be fuelled so I can perform at my best.”
Clarke is in pole position to claim the English heavyweight spot for next year’s Commonwealth Games on Australia’s Gold Coast. But Billam-Smith is refusing to rule out the prospect of competing Down Under.
“That was the goal last year, to get in the GB squad and then look at the Commonwealth Games,” said Billam-Smith, who ultimately missed out on national recognition.
“We will see what happens, it is not certain I will turn professional immediately. I only want to switch if I can get the right deals in place.
“I will speak with my manager and trainers about it after this weekend.”