AS CHRIS Billam-Smith prepares for his first world title defence, we have caught up with some people who know a bit more about the man behind the belt.

In the first of this three-part series, former Cherries star and big boxing fan Junior Stanislas details how Billam-Smith’s relationship grew with the football club, getting to a point where he sold out Vitality Stadium in May.

I remember Chris coming into the training ground with his future wife, probably about six years ago.

He watched training and then met up with the lads afterwards.

I’m a big boxing fan, so since then I’ve always kept in touch. We’ve messaged each other and I’ve been to quite a few of his fights.

Bournemouth Echo:

When he was manager, Eddie Howe decided to take the squad for some boxing training. We probably weren’t tough enough on the pitch!

So Ed had an idea to take us down to Bendall’s Gym in Parkstone. Some received it quite well and others weren’t too sure!

Since I’ve stopped playing, I go there once or twice a week. The club have kept that relationship and everybody is right behind Chris every step of the way.

A lot of the boys have been to the last couple of his fights, at the BIC and at Vitality Stadium.

I went to the ones against Isaac Chamberlain and Lawrence Okolie.

Bournemouth Echo:

That night at the Vitality was brilliant for him and for us. It was a dream he has had certainly for the last few years.

In boxing you speak about fighting in Vegas, but knowing Chris, he always wanted to fight at his home ground. He got to do it on a special night where he ended up becoming world champion.

It’s a special relationship between himself and the club and even us as players. I think we see him as an extended member of the squad as well. We are right behind him and he deserves everything that comes his way.

You could see him also as something like an ambassador, spreading the club that he supports worldwide. He is very humble and I’m sure from the club’s perspective it is brilliant to have him.

There are some similarities between boxing and football. But the boxing mindset is very unique.

If we have a game against one of the biggest sides, the worst that can happen is you lose the game. In boxing, you can get knocked out and your life is at risk.

The drive you need, I think that’s certainly something you can take as a crossover from boxing into football. You need the self-motivation to get where you want to get.

Bournemouth Echo:

A lot of the squad nowadays are boxing fans. I’d say it probably started from Chris. Some of the guys that are there now, they’re heavily behind Chris.

We always want to go and watch his fights and support him as much as we can. When the lads don’t have games the next day, I think they’ll always be at his fights.

He comes and watches a lot of the games, he goes on the pitch and stuff. From the club’s perspective, Simon Francis, Neill Blake and Richard Hughes, they want to be there to give him that support as well.

My two sons like their boxing. I wouldn’t say they’re bobbing and weaving, but we definitely get the headguards and the mitts out in the garden and they have a play regularly.

From around the age of 13, I’ve watched quite a lot of boxing. I like watching welterweights like Terence Crawford, Shakur Stevenson and Keyshawn Davis.

Chris is great. Even now he’s world champion, he’s still the same person he was years ago. He hasn’t changed one bit.

It’s not bad having a world champion’s number in your phone!