POPULAR former world champion Ricky Hatton likened Chris Billam-Smith to himself as he claimed “they’ll be speaking about him in Bournemouth for years and years”.

Hatton, one of the greatest British boxers of all time, enjoyed many memorable nights in his hometown of Manchester, notably defeating Kostya Tszyu to win the IBF light-welterweight title in 2005.

He would then go on to big fight nights in Las Vegas, as well as defending his world crown at the home of his favourite football club Manchester City.

Avid Cherries fan Billam-Smith is set for his first WBO cruiserweight title defence on Sunday, facing Mateusz Masternak at the Bournemouth International Centre, six months on from becoming world champion with victory over Lawrence Okolie at Vitality Stadium.

“These are the things that you want to do as a fighter: defend your title in your hometown,” Hatton said in an interview with ICE36.

“Chris is very, very proud of coming from Bournemouth. He’s built his fanbase by fighting regularly in his hometown.

“I had a national fanbase, but it all started in Manchester.

“Winning a title in your hometown’s football stadium, that’s a box ticked.

“It will be a very, very proud night for Chris and for Bournemouth.

“I’ve been there and done that – it’s an amazing feeling to fight in your hometown. You want to look back on your career and tick these nights off the list.

“He’s got a world title to defend in Bournemouth. They’ll be speaking about him in Bournemouth for years and years. It must be a dream for him.”

Discussing fighting in his hometown, Hatton added: “Kostya Tszyu quit on his stool at the end of the 11th round.

“To be honest, I wasn’t that far behind him, I was ready to give up because I was out on my feet, but I looked into the crowd and could see the love and the passion that fans had for me.

“I could hear them shouting and I knew I had my nose in front in the fight; I was nearly there.

“The crowd worked as my 12th man that night. It raised me and that’s what your fans do.

“We’re all proud of our hometown and if he wins this one, then he’s got unification fights and trips to America to look forward to.

“Everyone that goes to that Bournemouth fight will follow him to the ends of the earth.”