It has been a time since has mentioned the name Richard Riakporhe. The Londoner had a remarkable 2019, looked to be one of the breakout stars of British boxing and then vanished. 

The cruiserweight returns to action on Saturday at Wembley Arena, after signing with BOXXER, the new Sky Sports in-house promoter. He also has a new training base and new team around him, but he is confident he will pick up where he left off. 

“Nobody could have predicted the global pandemic and on top of that I had a lot of issues,” Riakporhe said. “We can all think and wonder how it could have gone, but we are here now and, as you can see, I have stayed in shape. I want to focus on what I want to achieve. 

“I’m self-managed now, I have set up my own camp. I have been working on my craft day in, day out and waiting for the big lights.” 

Aged 31, Riakporhe has only had 11 professional bouts but he has no miles on the clock, despite agreeing to be matched tough. In 2019 he beat Tommy McCarthy, Chris Billam-Smith (who recently met each other for the British, Commonwealth and European titles) as well as claiming the vacant British title by beating Jack Massey. 

But having moved his base from London to Loughborough University with trainer Angel Fernandez, he is hanging out with a whole different level of athlete now. 

“I see Adam Peaty, the sprinters, rugby players, Anthony Watson, these guys are monsters in their own field,” Riakporhe said. “The environment is full of achievers and it rubs off. Everyone is hungry to leave their mark and make a legacy.  

“I remember my environment in London growing up, that was why I got myself into a lot of trouble. Aylesbury Estate, Wharf Road, on the edge of Peckham. It was gritty down there. The estate I grew up on, they have knocked it down. 

“This is a full-time job, a full-time commitment and you see the benefits. Back in London, going into all those 50-50 fights was horrendous. We have decided to put a plan in place to achieve the most out of myself to unlock my potential. It is great having power, but people know that you get to a certain point where that is tested and that is not enough. There will always be someone who can take the power. So, we have thought about how I can improve in every single aspect. Strength and conditions, analyst, everything. Loughborough offered all of that.  

“We are living like monks. We have been working diligently on every aspect. With boxing, there is always something else to learn. It’s a lifestyle, you have have to commit yourself and if you don’t, there is no point – you might get a few paydays but it is so dangerous.” 

Riakporhe takes on Poland’s Krzysztof Twardowski on Saturday night. Wembley Arena has not been the best venue for Polish cruiserweights in the past year as Lawrence Okolie knocked out both Nikodem Jezewski and Krzysztof Glowacki there.  

“It’s all good having a name, but you need to be active, you need to have momentum,” he said. “Saturday it all starts off again. We are going to keep it simple, not try to impress everybody. We will get the job done and then get back on the road. 

“There are big fights to be made. I feel when I came on the scene I started a trend of taking difficult fights, no one did it like I did. Some people said I should be built properly and take my time, but I have now been able to analyze the benefits of going that route and taking the tough fights, it has given me a lot of confidence. It has toughened me up mentally. 

“I told everybody I want to be like a throwback fighter. I don’t want to be a guy who fights every 3-4 months then disappears on holiday. I’m here now, I am looking to box as regularly as possible. That is one of the reasons I joined BOXXER because they said they could fulfil that. Everything they have said they will do, they have done it so far, so I have nothing but praise for them and Sky Sports and all the guys behind the scenes.” 

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.