Richard Riakporhe has “Deontay Wilder kind of power”, according to Dan Azeez.

Riakporhe on Saturday challenges WBO cruiserweight champion Chris Billam-Smith at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park – Azeez fights Croatia’s Hrvoje Sep on the undercard – and does so with a reputation as a fighter whose power will eventually take him to heavyweight.

The 34 year old narrowly outpointed Billam-Smith in 2019, on a night on which his fellow south Londoner Azeez also fought when winning the southern area light-heavyweight title, and having previously sparred both fighters involved in the main event, Azeez is aware that Riakporhe’s raw power poses to Billam-Smith a particular risk. 

“Chris Billam-Smith – I’ve sparred him a couple of times,” said Azeez. “He’s battle-hardened, man. He’s battle-hardened. He’s improved [since 2019]; he’s been in there. He’s been more active. 

“But Richard Riakporhe’s one of the hardest punchers I’ve been in there with, and that was in the amateurs – forget about now. He’s a puncher. He’s got that [Deontay] Wilder kind of power. But I don’t know if the inactivity might be a hindrance to him. 

“But it could be a hindrance to Chris Billam-Smith, because he’s had tough fights – even his last fight, he stopped the guy [Mateusz Masternak]. But they were tough fights, and they wear you down. But [Billam-Smith’s trainer] Shane McGuigan is meticulous. I’m sure he’ll have a great game plan. 

“I’m looking forward to it. I actually want to be on first, so I can sit down and watch it. I was asking, ‘Can I be on the undercard – not the TV slot? I want to really sit down and just watch the fight’. I think I am gonna be on the TV slot so I have to wait a bit, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Billam-Smith, also 34, is making the second defence of the title he won from Lawrence Okolie, who also has heavy hands.

“I’m going to sound like fence-sitter,” Azeez continued. “I was on their first fight as well; I was fighting Charlie Duffield for the southern area title, so it’s funny I’m on the undercard again. 

“If it doesn’t go the distance I’ll give it to Richard. If it does go the distance, I’m gonna go for Chris. Richard’s gotten better, but he’s more patient; he might not be too busy. Whereas Chris will be on it, but it leaves him open to get caught with stuff. He goes for it. 

“So I don’t know. And I like both of them, so I’m happily gonna tell you I’m a fence-sitter, I don’t care. The best man will win.”