Richard Riakporhe hopes to make giant strides towards proving he is the best cruiserweight in the world when he faces Italy’s Fabio Turchi in an IBF eliminator at Wembley tonight. But he still has some convincing that he is the best in Britain.

This will be Riakporhe’s fourth fight in eight months, a big step up for the unbeaten 32-year-old former British champion having not boxed in nearly two years during the pandemic.

And while Lawrence Okolie, as WBO champion, would be most people’s pick as the best cruiserweight in Britain right now, he had every right to be upset at the narrative that saw Tommy McCarthy and Chris Billam-Smith billed as the next best two when they met each other twice, not least because he had beaten the pair of them.

But with BOXXER and Sky Sports getting behind his career, Riakporhe is not afraid of a little competition.

“It is good to be on my own path now, but those rivalries worked for me, because when there is competition, you always have to raise your game,” Riakporhe said. “You know you have to be at your best because there are other fighters who are hungry and trying to get to a world title ahead of you.

“It’s even good in my position now, because I am looking over my shoulder and seeing Chris Billam-Smith, Tommy McCarthy and Lawrence Okolie. We all want to be No 1.

“I lacked a lot in experience and boxing IQ back then but I still came through those fights (against McCarthy and Billam-Smith). Now I am thinking I should demolish those guys if I would step in the ring with them again.

“Time will tell and the cream always rises to the top. I really believe I am one of the best cruiserweights in the world, let alone the UK. I’m No 1, I’ll prove it.”

Any form guide would make Riakporhe a favorite against Turchi. After all, Turchi’s lone professional defeat came to McCarthy, whom Riakporhe stopped – both fights happening in 2019.

“I am definitely a better fighter than I was then, but styles make fights,” Riakporhe said. “He’s a southpaw and when Tommy McCarthy fought him he had a really laid-back counterpunching style. I can do that. I do that quite a lot now and most of the guys I knock down are with counterpunches.

“These days you have to create the openings, because at this level, people are not giving anything away. They know I can punch so they are not looking to take a punch from me because that would be insane. I have to be way more intelligent. I see it as a chess game – be really strategic, but at the same time quick and let it flow. I enjoy it.”

Should he win tonight, a shot at IBF champion Mairis Briedis could be somewhere down the line, although he has talked of moving up to heavyweight. Still, a fight with Okolie is not likely to be too far away either and the pair know each other well.

“I go back with Okolie to the amateur days,” he said. “We never boxed, he was in the juniors when I was a senior and he then went off to the GB squad. We were going to spar, but it never happened. But we get on, we used to be on the phone to each other, talking about the game and our vision of boxing – we have a lot of respect for each other.”

Okolie is managed by Anthony Joshua, who is now a training partner of Riakporhe, after the former heavyweight champion left Sheffield to train with Angel Fernandez, Riakporhe’s trainer in Loughborough.

“It’s a bit weird, isn’t it?” Riakporhe said. “But it’s cool, we’re not fighting each other at the moment, so we can be cordial.”

While Joshua is next fighting a former cruiserweight champion in Oleksandr Usyk, Riakporhe says he has not been drafted in as a sparring partner.

“AJ is preparing for a southpaw, so it doesn’t really make sense,” he said. “We do a little bit of technical work together.”

But being part of Joshua’s training group does not mean taking orders from the former champion, even when it comes around to who decides when to go out for the morning run.

“It’s not him knocking on my door,” he said. “No chance, I’m waking him up.”

Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 - covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.