LAWRENCE Okolie insists he would be happy to return to Bournemouth to face hometown hero Chris Billam-Smith again.

Okolie accepted the offer of a voluntary defence of his WBO cruiserweight title last month, and lost his world crown, beaten on points by the ‘Gentleman’ at Vitality Stadium.

A crowd of around 15,000 packed out the home of Billam-Smith’s beloved Cherries to cheer him on, with Okolie very much feeling like the away fighter.

The 30-year-old, previously unbeaten in his professional career, was knocked down three times in defeat, but is keen to trigger his rematch clause, which was built into the contract of the original fight.

Asked if he would be happy to return to Bournemouth for that fight, or if he would prefer to box on neutral territory, Okolie said: “I don’t mind coming to Bournemouth.

“There’s nothing about this that made it anything more than what it was. I’m not going to lie, it was exciting for me.

“I loved it. It’s very hard to recreate that energy from an opponent, coming with everything.

“For me, obviously I didn’t get the win, but it’s another tick. I’ve beaten undefeated guy after undefeated guy, I’ve beaten contenders, but going into someone’s back garden and seeing everything they’ve got.

“Chris, his confidence is probably going to go up off that win, but there’s not really much more to it.

“If I’m going to lose in Bournemouth, I might as well win here.”

Until earlier this year, Okolie was a gym-mate of Billam-Smith’s, training under Shane McGuigan.

Former Olympian Okolie parted ways with McGuigan due to a change in circumstance and teamed up with American SugarHill Steward.

Asked if the Billam-Smith he faced at Vitality Stadium was any different from the one he knew previously from the gym, Okolie said: “It is the same guy. Me and him always had good, hard work.

“If I had landed the shot in the fourth that hurt him, I probably would’ve got the fight.

“But moments make fights. I think if you get a knockdown, it boosts you for the next couple of rounds.

“At certain points, the fight started slipping away and then it made me have to kind of push it.

“It was a new position to be in and it was kind of exciting. It’s weird, because I hate losing, I’m obviously a winner at heart, but it was just interesting to know.

“I was watching Lennox Lewis’s documentary and I saw him take some Ls and come back and that’s the kind of energy I’m feeling right now.”

Asked what he would do differently in a rematch, Okolie said: “I’d be a little bit more loose and empty the tank early.

“I wouldn’t be trying to go points, I’d be trying to just get it done.”