Echo columnist Chris Billam-Smith explains how he first got to spar the world’s best and become part of the famous McGuigan stable

All this free time has given me the opportunity to reflect and look back at my journey and how it all started.

My first big goal was to get in the Great Britain squad, so I could try to get to the Olympics.

I had trials in 2012, 2013 and 2016 after reaching a certain stage of the National Championships.

I got closer each time but never got in.

Bournemouth Echo:

During the latter years of my amateur career, 2015 to 2017, I had the honour of sparring some big names.

I got a message from somebody I didn’t know or even know I was friends with on Facebook! I soon realised it was Shane McGuigan’s right hand man.

He asked me if I could come to London the next day and spar. I immediately replied and said yes, not knowing who I would be sparring.

He said: “Cool, 12pm and you’ll be doing six rounds with George Groves.”

Immediate goosebumps of excitement ran through me. It wasn’t known to anyone that George was training with Shane at this point, so it was a massive surprise for me.

George had changed trainers after his recent loss to Badou Jack in Vegas in his third World title shot. A fight I (obviously) stayed up late to watch!

For those that don’t know, I’m a massive George Groves fan, had been for years. So, I drove up to London with my brother and Lee Cutler. We got to the gym in Battersea, Barry McGuigan introduced himself, as did the rest of the stable.

I got ready and did the spar with George. I sparred okay, other than eating plenty of George’s jab which left my face covered in claret!

Bournemouth Echo:

Shane said after he was pleased with the spar and that I’d be good work for David Haye due to my speed. So after that, I got invited back to spar George and another time, David.

I only sparred David three times in total but since those times I’ve joined the McGuigan camp, shared hundreds and hundreds of rounds sparring with George and we’ve even become friends.

It’s crazy when an idol becomes a friend!

This week I carried on the tradition of texting him on May 27, wishing him a ‘Happy World title Day’ (insert laughing face emoji).

By reflecting, it has helped me appreciate how far I’ve come and the great opportunities I have had. I have a great team around me, my manager is a Hall of Fame boxer, my coach has trained numerous world champions and I get to train with some of the best fighters the UK has to offer.

It’s been a crazy few years as an average lad from little, sunny old Bournemouth and these are experiences I’ll forever cherish.

In the past I’ve been somebody who is never content and always wants more. But now I’m learning to enjoy the journey and all the steps along the way, rather than the destination itself.

However, we are nowhere the destination yet!

Bournemouth Echo:

Thank you once again for this week’s questions.

Would you ever go up to the heavyweight division? From Matt House.

I am not a massive cruiserweight so it’s unlikely. But, never say never.

Where in the world would you most like to fight? From Archie Roe.

Obviously, everyone would love to fight in the USA at Maddison Square Garden or Vegas but people have done that.

So, for me it would be Dean Court. To fight on the pitch of your hometown team who you support, that’s the dream! It’s going to happen eventually.

If anyone would like to ask any questions for next week, please contact below.

  •  Email:
  •  Instagram/Twitter: @ChrisBillam

Peace out,