WHEN Bournemouth’s Chris Billam-Smith stepped out for his first amateur fight at Weymouth Pavilion – he fuelled up on a Subway sandwich and cookies.

He was meant to be working at TK Maxx during the day but phoned into say he would not be available, so he could prepare to step into the ring on a show for the first time.

Almost 14 years later, having made the switch to the professional ranks, the former Poole ABC star is now the British, Commonwealth and European cruiserweight champion.

The man nicknamed The Gentleman has been through a lot in that period, from shoulder surgery to linking up with the legendary McGuigan Camp at professional level.

But one thing has not changed – the fighter, who on Monday turned 31, is still fuelled by his addiction to winning.

Having beaten Tommy McCarthy via a split-decision for two more belts at Matchroom’s Fight Camp on Saturday night, the powerful cruiserweight could now be set to compete at world level.

But asked whether he felt his career would ever get to this stage when he first took up the sport, Billam-Smith told the Daily Echo: “As a young kid I always thought I would do something in sport. I was only ever interested in sport and I tried every sport under the sun pretty much.

“I always believed there was something – I don’t know what it was – but I was always a bad loser.

“That drive to win and be better – when it was in team sports I always wanted to win and be captain to drive the team on.

“I have never taken losing very well, so I guess that is just that competitive nature.

“When I first started boxing, I just wanted to give it a go. I did it originally to keep fit and get fitter for football.

“Then I had my first fight and experienced that. I just loved that winning feeling and just got addicted to it really.

“Here we are, nearly 14 years on from my first fight and it has been a crazy journey.

“I never thought then when I was having my first amateur fight down at Weymouth Pavilion that I’d be at the stage I’m at now.

“But having said that, when you achieve a goal there are always more goals to achieve. I wouldn’t be happy just to settle with where I’m at now – I guess that’s just a sign of progression.”

Billam-Smith has regularly talked about fighting in his hometown, having been away from the ring in Bournemouth since December 2018.

Now he has three titles to his name, a show could be coming to the south coast if someone decided to try to take them off him.

There has been talk of a Bournemouth show with Billam-Smith on the card later this year.

One thing is for sure, McCarthy, who lost on two of the three judges’ scorecards, is desperate for a rematch against the Dorset fighter.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: “It was a tough fight and there were times I was feeling the pace, but I came on strong and in the championship rounds I was the better man.

“The only fight I want next is the re-match. It’s just so annoying and hurts a lot because I know that I could have won a lot more comfortably if I had stuck to my boxing.

“I should have made it more decisive. There were too many rounds, particularly in the middle stages that were too subjective. I know I’m the better boxer, the more skilful fighter and I shouldn’t have allowed it to be so close.

“Maybe because I hurt him badly early on it put me off my game plan. I just know when the re-match happens it will be a different fight.”