BOXXER promoter and founder Ben Shalom believes Saturday night’s huge world title fight between Chris Billam-Smith and Lawrence Okolie can be “the start of something special” for boxing on the south coast.

Ardent Cherries fan Billam-Smith is set for an emotional homecoming when he steps out at Vitality Stadium this weekend, looking to become a world champion.

The show also includes an undercard stacked with talent from across the south coast, including Dorset duo Lee Cutler and Mace Ruegg.

It is the third big show BOXXER have put on in Bournemouth in the past 12 months, with Billam-Smith defeating Isaac Chamberlain and Armend Xhoxhaj in raucous atmospheres at the BIC.

PICS: Fight week ramps up with workout session on Bournemouth Pier

Discussing the upcoming show this weekend, Shalom told the Daily Echo: “I’m really glad to be back.

“It feels like a summer holiday, like it did last year. It’s pretty special.

“Last year with Chamberlain was one of the fights of the year and even that surprised us, the level of intensity from the fans and the whole town seems to get behind him (Billam-Smith).

“But to be here 12 months later and selling out Vitality Stadium, that is something probably we didn’t expect, especially in a domestic world title fight like this.

“It’s a big event for the south coast and it really feels like the start of something special.

“They needed a star to start staging events. You see a lot of fights happen in London and in the north and all around the UK, but the south coast is few and far between. So it’s a very important event.”

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Billam-Smith, 32, has often spoken of his desire to fight at Vitality Stadium over the years. But to make that dream a reality, he had to leave Matchroom and team up with BOXXER and Sky Sports.

“We are very committed to British boxing,” Shalom said, when asked about helping Billam-Smith push towards this goal.

“British boxing has been built on local heroes. You’ve seen it with Ricky Hatton from where I’m from in Manchester and the legacy still lives on, and Leeds with Josh Warrington more recently and Anthony Joshua in London.

“That’s where British boxing thrives. So to have a star that is able to do this and be built in the south coast is huge.

“It’s huge for him and we saw a big opportunity and the way it’s come off is even beyond what we could’ve imagined.”

BOXXER have been hosting three pre-fight events this week at the end of Bournemouth Pier.

Fans were invited to watch a two-hour open workout session on Wednesday, before media returned for Thursday’s press conference.

Supporters are again encouraged back on Friday afternoon, for the official weigh-ins.

Asked what he enjoys about fight weeks in Bournemouth, Shalom said: “First of all, where else can you do an event on the beach!? The weather is incredible.

“But I think it’s the excitement of the place. Because they don’t get it often, they’re really grateful that such a big event is happening in Bournemouth.

“I think it’s showing off the town massively on Sky and it just feels different.

“They’ve been waiting for this moment. I’m not talking about the whole of Bournemouth, but there’s a lot of boxing gyms on the south coast that feel completely disconnected from the big TV shows and what really goes on. They have to always go and fight in London.

“So for them, it’s a huge moment. It’s the excitement. The way the fans get behind Chris Billam-Smith is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

“I think the football club have got really behind him. I think about 60-70 per cent of season ticket holders are coming on Saturday night.

“So it’s going to be a special event. AFC Bournemouth and the people have made it that.”

He added: “Chris Billam-Smith now, once you can sell out a stadium, that is a serious statement.

“I think Saturday night there is going to be up to a million people watching.

“This is a huge event for British sport. Whatever happens, I can see us back here with Chris Billam-Smith, but there are lads coming through.

“Lee Cutler, Joe Pigford, Mace Ruegg, Lewis Edmondson, Michael McKinson, there are stars coming through that will want to headline as well, but Billam-Smith has definitely broken through now as a star down here and hopefully it will continue.”