The criticism of Richardson Hitchins’ latest performance is one that he heard loud and clear. Boos reverberated throughout the Caribe Royale Arena in Orlando, Florida, but the 26-year-old couldn’t care less.

Normally defensive, the former Olympian may have taken things overboard in his approach. At no time did he appear interested in letting off a 4-5 combination. If he did, fans would’ve gotten out of their seats and given him a standing ovation. However, it would’ve also given Jose Zepeda a stationary target.

From the outside, if you aren’t fortunate enough to have a close relationship with Richardson, he can come across as someone whose confidence never vacillates. And while that might be true to a certain extent, he would be lying if he said his confidence was through the roof on that particular night.

“My mindset was get the W, show no chinks in your armor, and dominate,” Richardson told during a recent interview. “That was my mindset. I didn’t really go there with the mindset of I’m a beat the sh!t out of Zepeda. It was kind of like that question mark. Do I belong on this level? I knew I was a better fighter but you still need that experience.”

After pitching a shutout, it’s safe to say that Hitchins won’t be going through another identity crisis anytime soon. Everything he feared about Zepeda was erroneous. The one-punch knockout? He never allowed him to get in position to land it. The underrated footwork? Hitchins saw him coming a mile away. Even Zepeda’s inside work was innocuous.

Currently, Hitchins (17-0, 7 KOs) is positioned for an IBF world title eliminator against Jack Catterall, which has a purse bid date of January 2. He’s also keeping tabs on Devin Haney and Teofimo Lopez.

No matter who he's eventually matched up with, however, isn’t a huge concern. Considering how he performed against a former multiple-time title challenger, Hitchins believes he now knows he’s one of the best in the world.

“I proved to myself that I belong on this level.”