THE eyes of the boxing world are set to turn to Bournemouth tonight.

In a much-anticipated fight, local hero Chris Billam-Smith will take on unbeaten Lawrence Okolie at the Vitality Stadium, with the latter’s WBO cruiserweight title on the line.

But, for local entrepreneur Joseph Ashford-Ellis, this is the culmination of two years of hard work behind the scenes to bring boxing to the ground.

“This is without a shadow of a doubt the biggest sporting event in Bournemouth, and I can’t tell you how proud I am to be a part of it,” Joseph said.

“It’s been extremely hard work and tiring, and at times I’ve thought have I bitten off a bit more than I could chew. One thing I do have is tenacity and I won’t give up, and we’ve got it there.”

Bournemouth Echo: Joseph Ashford-Ellis with Harry Redknapp.

The 42-year-old set up his business, K4 Global, in 2014, and has been behind the two previous Billam-Smith bouts at the Bournemouth International Centre.

The company organised the fights with promoter Boxxer and broadcaster Sky, with the aim always to bring boxing to the Vitality.

Both events were key for Joseph to demonstrate to both national brands that a title fight in the town would be viable.

Bournemouth Echo: Joseph Ashford-Ellis at Parkstone ABC.

“We took the challenge of going in the BIC first. I put my money where my mouth was and financially stood on the tickets to get them there,” he said.

“We’re obviously very fortunate that we’ve got Chris Billam-Smith who’s a local hero and a phenomenal advocate of the sport behind us.

“It feels a bit surreal that we’re just over a week off from being there and its now all come together.”

Bournemouth Echo: Chris Billam-Smith

Speaking just a week out from what promises to be a huge night in the sporting history of the town, Joseph said there are “a lot of nerves”.

“I’m extremely nervous, I’m sure the fighters are,” Joseph said.

“Chris is a legend in the area, and quite rightly so, he’s got a beautiful young family, and he’s making dreams.

“For me that’s absolutely incredible because it shows the local talent and the kids potentially what they could aspire into.

“The whole community’s proud of him, he’s fought like a warrior and he’s in this position through his own merit and he deserves that.”

He hopes to be raising a glass with Chris, toasting a successful event and becoming Bournemouth’s latest world champion.

Bournemouth Echo: Joseph Ashford-Ellis

Moving forward, Joseph hopes this is the first of many boxing events in the future hosted in the seaside stadium.

“In an ideal world, and I’m sure that this is going to happen, it goes exceptionally well, the town embraces it, and then we build from there,” he said.

“We’ve got some great talent in the south, and I just hope that we’ve done as a team is put Bournemouth and the south on the map.
“That was all I ever wanted to go and achieve, so quietly I’m quite proud.”

Joseph will be donating his share of any profits from the fight to charities Christchurch Support Kabin and Parkstone Amateur Boxing Club.