WORLD champion Chris Billam-Smith believes veteran Mateusz Masternak will provide “my hardest fight to date”.

Billam-Smith (18-1) puts his WBO cruiserweight title on the line at the Bournemouth International Centre on Sunday, December 10.

Masternak, 36, arrives with a record of 47-5 after a storied career. He has not boxed as much in recent years, but will come to the south coast on the back of six straight wins.

Since knocking out Armend Xhoxhaj in October 2021, Masternak has fought just once, overcoming previously undefeated Jason Whateley a year later.

His previous career highlight saw him crowned European cruiserweight champion, having lost an interim world title shot against Youri Kayembre Kalenga in 2014.

Billam-Smith, 33, won the world title in May by beating Lawrence Okolie, with the possibility of a rematch between the pair mooted for this year.

But instead Masternak will provide the first challenge to The Gentleman’s belt.

Bournemouth Echo:

Looking ahead to December’s sold-out showdown at the BIC, Bournemouth’s Billam-Smith told the Daily Echo: “The team have been working away at getting a date sorted.

“We were looking at the end of November, but we’re only a few weeks out from that. It gives me a couple of extra weeks to improve even more, so it’s all good.

“Masternak was always in the running. Whatever happens with the Lawrence situation, it happened. I’m still contracted to rematch him at some point.

“Masternak is a fantastic fighter. For me, he’s my hardest fight to date.

“I’ve really got to be switched on for this fight.

“He does everything really, really well. He can punch, he puts shots together well, he’s got good footwork.”

Masternak has predominantly boxed in his native Poland, but has fought once in the UK before, losing to Tony Bellew over 12 rounds at O2 Arena in London in 2015.

Asked if he has analysed Master’s battle with Bomber, or spoken with Bellew about the Pole, Billam-Smith said: “I watched it back the other day, that fight.

“I think Masternak probably would’ve improved from that fight. He’s boxed at a higher level since that fight.

“I don’t mean higher level in opponent, that was for the European title and obviously Tony went on to win a world title.

“It was a super close fight as well, I think it was about seven rounds to five on the scorecards, so a really close fight and Tony had a really, really good last round as well.

“He started the last round a little bit slow, but then really hurt Masternak later on and that would’ve won him the round.

“It was a nip and tuck fight and a matter of a few key moments when Tony got the win.

“I think Masternak would’ve learned from the experience of that, against a really good fighter in Tony and has improved since. He’s been in there with some monsters since.

“He’s got a few wins, he’s beaten a lot of unbeaten lads recently.

“So I’ve watched that fight, I haven’t spoken to Tony. If I bump into him, I might ask him a little bit. But we’re different fighters, different styles.”