Riakporhe ready for O2 lift-off
Luke G. Williams
Photo by Bahareh Hosseini
After landing a place on the undercard of the Dillian Whyte vs Lucas Browne show at the O2 in March, undefeated cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe tells Boxing Monthly about his plans for this year and discusses the possibility of a future showdown with Lawrence Okolie…
South London’s exciting cruiserweight prospect Richard Riakporhe will get to showcase his skills to a wider audience after being added to the undercard of the eagerly awaited heavyweight tussle between Dillian Whyte and Lucas Browne at the O2 Arena on 24 March.
“I’m very excited,” said the 28-year-old Riakporhe, whose hard-hitting style has seen him accumulate four early wins in his five pro fights thus far. “I’ve been waiting on an opportunity to perform at a big arena so I can get accustomed to such occasions to prepare me for hopefully big fights in the future.
“My coach Ted Bami told me that they [Matchroom] wanted me and [welterweight prospect] Chris Kongo on the show. I’d also been speaking to Dillian Whyte and he messaged me and said he wanted me on his undercard. So I’ve just been waiting for confirmation - I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much because a lot of promises are made in this industry and some of them fail to materialise. But on this occasion it came through and I’ve now received my tickets.
“I’m in camp now and I’m preparing to put on an amazing performance on the night. The opponent will be announced nearer to the time. They’ve thrown some names in there – so I’m just training to be mentally prepared for anyone – any type of opponent - southpaw, orthodox, whatever.”
Riakporhe admitted that the opportunity to fight on a Matchroom card was one he is relishing.
“It’s amazing,” he enthused. “Everyone knows that Eddie Hearn is arguably the best promoter in the world at the moment, so it’s a privilege for me to box on an amazing card like this. It’s an opportunity to build my brand and name more, particularly if I put on an amazing performance as I believe I will. Hopefully Eddie Hearn will definitely want to put me on more shows afterwards.”
Last Saturday night, Riakporhe’s Miguel's Gym stablemate Isaac Chamberlain was defeated on points by Lawrence Okolie in Matchroom’s much hyped ‘British Beef’ show.
As was discussed in the build-up to this contest, if things had worked out a little differently before Christmas Riakporhe would have had a shot at Okolie first.
“I had a fight scheduled for, I think, 1 December, but that opponent pulled out,” Riakporhe explained. “Then I received a call from Ted Bami telling me that Matchroom wanted me to fight Lawrence Okolie on ten days’ notice, on 13 December. I took the fight straight away, I’m not going to say no to an opportunity like that. I knew I could do the job and I want to mix it with the best, but a few days before the fight they pulled out. They said they didn’t want the fight, maybe for business reasons, who knows?
“Once they pulled out I didn’t have anything else scheduled so I thought: ok, let’s wait until the new year, stay fit and see what opportunities come.”
When asked to assess the disappointing Okolie vs Chamberlain showdown, for which he was ringside, Riakporhe admitted “It wasn’t a good fight at all. Styles make fights and on this occasion, the hype was amazing but the styles didn’t gel at all. There was a lot of holding and not much fighting, not many punches were landed. That was very frustrating for the fans. But there was a great undercard.
“Isaac didn’t really let his hands go, he was waiting for Okolie and wasn’t really focused on his game plan. Maybe the occasion and nerves took their toll. I do believe that if Isaac fought him again he would get the victory – sometimes you have to get used to an opponent to figure them out.
“Isaac didn’t adapt quick enough, but it happens. It’s happened to most of the great fighters in history that they lost but it’s about how you come back. Isaac is still young and has a long career ahead of him.
“Skill wise, I think Lawrence is good. He had a strategy on Saturday and he executed it. He knows what he’s doing. He’s intelligent in the ring. I think he’s domestic level at the moment – Tony Bellew said the same thing from ringside when commentating. But he’s doing good, very good. He’s achieved quite a bit already, he’s already headlined a show at the O2. You have to give props where it’s due.”
Riakporhe said he was still keen to square off against Okolie in the future and try and succeed where Chamberlain failed.
“Okolie had a lot of things in his favour against Isaac,” he argued. “He didn’t have to worry so much about oncoming traffic and he is bigger than Isaac. I think it would be different if he had shots coming his way. Often you have a game plan but it all changes when you get punched in the face - then anything can happen.
“When both people can punch, one punch can change everything in a second. Lawrence had it all his way on Saturday and was able to keep it long. If we fought I definitely think it would be an exciting fight. Both of us can punch so it would probably be one of those old school classics. And I don’t hold, I like to box.”
If Okolie vs Riakporhe is brokered, though, it seems unlikely the animosity which characterised the build-up to the Chamberlain contest will be repeated.
“Lawrence is an amazing guy,” Riakporhe said. “He’s a friend, a good friend. We’ve known each other for many years. But boxing is a business. I spar close friends like Isaac every day and we try and knock each other out. It’s nothing personal.
“In the lead-up to the [Okolie vs Chamberlain] fight I took a step back and didn’t get involved because both of my friends were fighting each other so I thought: let me take a back seat and let them do their thing.
“I wouldn’t say I would always stay away from that [trash talking side of boxing]. But I know there’s a lot of kids that follow me and look up to me so it is important I try and maintain a good image, so I can be a good representation of how a professional should conduct himself or herself. I like the idea of being viewed as a role model, so I try and keep it a bit classy! That’s just the way I am.”
In this respect, Riakporhe admits that he follows the template laid out by current heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, who recently had some warm words of encouragement for him on a video that is now pinned on Riakporhe’s Twitter page.
“I’ve sparred with Anthony Joshua in the past when he was preparing for the world amateurs and we’ve known each other for many years. It was nice to catch up with him recently. I was kind of pleasantly surprised at the way he viewed me. It was really good to hear those words. He’s a very intelligent guy and he’s achieved so much in the boxing business already.”