ONE month has now passed since Chris Billam-Smith experienced what he anticipates to be the best night he will ever have in his boxing career.

Against the odds, the 32-year-old defeated Lawrence Okolie to become world champion, at a packed out Dean Court, the home of the football club he has always adored.

The path has not always been straightforward and there have been so many people who have played key roles along the way.

In this exclusive feature series with the Echo, Billam-Smith discusses his path to the top, starting at the very beginning.

DESPITE emerging into one of the town’s favourite sons, Chris Billam-Smith was not born in Bournemouth.

But aged three, his future would be shaped when he, alongside mum Carol, dad Alan and brothers Ben and Nick moved down from Surrey to the south coast.

Now, Billam-Smith openly acknowledges it took him a while to appreciate how fortunate he was to have the upbringing he did.

“We rented a place for a bit while the house was going through and then we went to Boscombe East, the bottom of Pokesdown Hill,” he explained.

“I lived there until I was 11. We had a massive garden. That’s all I ever knew.

“We’d come from a two-bed flat in Tadworth in Surrey, not far from Epsom where I was born.

“A two-bed flat with five of us. So my brothers were sharing a room and I was in with my mum and dad until I was three.

“Then we moved down here, a massive house.

“My dad ended up doing it up, so it had a loft conversion, massive conservatory, a massive garden. We had a local park which was closing down, and my dad bought the swings and the slide from the council and concreted them into our garden.

“So we had literally a park in our back garden. At the end we had a football pitch and I used to play football out there quite a lot.

“Then even on Saturday afternoons I’d be able to hear the stadium from the garden.”

Bournemouth Echo:

Emotional Billam-Smith dedicates 'greatest night of my career' to his mum

Asked why the family made the decision to move down to Bournemouth, Billam-Smith said: “My dad always worked and still works in London. He works in the film industry.

“He used to come down here on his scooter with his friends when he was a kid and they always liked it down here.

“I think it was just a better upbringing for me and my brothers in terms of it being a nicer area and obviously the beach.

“It was the best thing that’s ever happened to me, for them to have that foresight and see that it was going to be an amazing place to grow up, and it was.

“They gave us every opportunity under the sun. Any new sport we wanted to try or anything like that. I was very, very fortunate.”

Another move was on the cards in September 2001, not only out of the area, but to the other side of the world.

“This goes to show how spoilt we were – we downsized and moved to just by Littledown. The reason my parents downsized was so they could use the money from the house to go travelling go around Australia," said Billam-Smith.

“My mum and dad wanted to do it before they were 50, go back travelling, because they’d done a bit before. I was 11 and the day I was meant to start secondary school, I flew to Australia – September 5, 2001.

“We were meant to be there for a year, but my mum got a bit homesick.

“We were there for eight months. My brothers were turning 18 and 20 while we were out there. After their birthdays they went travelling on their own for a bit.

“It was unbelievable. We flew into Perth and travelled up the whole west coast and across, travelled the whole of Australia for eight months.

“So I didn’t go to school in year seven, apart from the last five weeks I think. It was crazy.

“I didn’t realise at the time how lucky I was really. I just thought loads of kids did it because I was doing it.

“We just went out there and it was an amazing experience. One of the best life lessons.

“I spent a lot of time on my own out there, because obviously we were travelling from place to place and my brothers had left so I was with my parents a lot of time, but I would BMX most days, in the sea most days when we were on the coast, bodyboarding and stuff.

“So I was ridiculously spoilt as a kid.”

Bournemouth Echo:

When that journey came to an end, reality would eventually hit as Billam-Smith searched for his path in life, schooled at Portchester (now Avonbourne) and Brockenhurst College.

Reflecting on his school days, Billam-Smith said: “I think PE was the only one I paid attention in.

“I wasn’t a terrible kid, but I wasn’t the best behaved either. I was quite mischievous, quite cheeky, but I don’t think the teachers hated me.

“I just didn’t really want to do the academia as such and just loved doing all the sports.

“I enjoyed drama as well. Anything practical really, nothing written. I loved school. I loved going to Portchester.

“I’ve just been to a stag do and there was 15 of us, but eight of them were probably lads I went to school with at Portchester.

“There’s still a big group of us still really good friends. It was great.”

Put to him he cannot have been too bad academically given he penned a weekly column in the Echo in the build-up to his world title fight with Lawrence Okolie last month, Billam-Smith replied: “It’s amazing, because I got an E in English!”

He continued: “The only reason I went to Brockenhurst College really was because a lot of my mates were going there.

“I did a B tech, sports performance and excellence.

“On literally the first day, the settling in day, I met a mate called Dean and we got on really well.”

That mate, Dean Perkins, would soon light the spark that set Billam-Smith on his way to boxing greatness.

Part two out tomorrow, looking at Billam-Smith’s first steps into boxing.