CHRIS Billam-Smith revealed he had to overcome a bout of illness in the build-up to his dream world title shot at Vitality Stadium, but insisted: “I was never pulling out of the fight.”

The Bournemouth boxer has for years expressed his desire at getting to fight at the home of his beloved Cherries.

Those dreams were turned into reality, with the 32-year-old given his date with destiny against WBO cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie on Saturday night.

Despite being a big underdog with bookmakers, the hometown hero emerged victorious in front of around 15,000 fans, knocking previously unbeaten Okolie down three times before winning by majority decision.

Reflecting on his momentous victory, Shane McGuigan-trained Billam-Smith said: “I haven’t really got the words at the moment, to be honest. It hasn’t quite sunk in.

“It was a gruelling fight. Physical, pretty tough, I had been pretty ill in the week and didn’t rehydrate as much or go as heavy as I normally do, so the energy levels were a bit low in there.

“But Shane came up with a gameplan, as always. The gameplan was to stay safe early on, first three rounds.

“A lot of people probably thought at that point that I’d bottled it, but we knew the gameplan. Then just start pushing as we knew we’d find the shots, as I said in the build-up.

“Then obviously in the fourth round, found the shot that changed the momentum of the fight. From then on, I knew I could do enough to just keep going, even with the energy feeling quite low.”

Bournemouth Echo: Chris Billam-Smith overcame Lawrence Okolie at Vitality Stadium

Asked if he had thought illness may force him to withdraw from the contest, Billam-Smith said: “No, I was never pulling out of this fight, not a chance.”

McGuigan interjected: “He might not have, but I was looking at it. But it’s not one we could reschedule.”

Billam-Smith continued: “I’m not letting 15,000 people down, no way. I was getting in that ring.

“Basically I had sickness and diarrhoea on Tuesday morning. All the training had been done, but I was pretty ill, got a bug.

“I fasted for about 24 hours to try and get rid of it and then ate a little bit and it just carried on until Thursday.

“Making weight was easy! But it wasn’t nice. I was really low on energy.

“I didn’t put anywhere near as much weight on as I normally would either because of my stomach. I only started eating Friday after the weigh-in, Thursday morning was the last time I ate.

“The doctor had a go at me when I told him, because I had to lie to him! But I was never, ever letting those fans down.

“I’d just turn up, 36 minutes of action and give it everything. With a fanbase like that, you can’t let them down. For me, I was never pulling out of the fight.”

He added: “It’s crazy. I can’t believe it. Shane took me on in 2017 and here we are.

“I joined the first week of June, so we’re six years on now and within six years we’ve turned me from a very raw fighter to world champion.”