BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Richard Riakporhe is feeling some nerves ahead of his first title fight on Saturday – but the Walworth cruiserweight reckons that is a good sign.
The unbeaten 28-year-old challenges for the vacant WBA inter-continental title at the Manchester Arena.
Riakporhe, who has six KOs in his seven victories, is part of the support act to Tony Bellew’s cruiserweight world unification showdown against Oleksandr Usyk.
He takes on Cheshire’s Sam Hyde, whose sole blemish on a 14-bout career is a draw in 2014.
“There is a little bit of nerves but that’s normal,” said Riakporhe. “I’ve learned in this sport you have to embrace it. If you have no nerves it may be a problem – you are maybe not that ambitious, don’t care that much and it will reflect in your performance.
“At the same time I’m quite calm. I know what I must do and where I want to get to. This is the first of many titles, not the end goal. I want to go further.”
Riakporhe had a proper tear up with Adam Williams in March. He was knocked down in the first round and got up to finish his opponent in the third.
“That was a different type of experience. A lot of people don’t really talk about things like that. It shows heart and fighting spirit. With a lot of these prospects, if it had happened to them they would not have got up and won that fight.
“In terms of Hyde being my toughest opponent, I have hard sparring in the gym with stronger opponents who are more experienced than me. I don’t think this is my hardest fight, but I’m also not saying it is going to be easy.”
Riakporhe has sparred with top heavyweight Dillian Whyte. The Brixton man, who signed up last week to rematch Dereck Chisora, is a mentor.
“He is like an ox – a very, very strong man,” said Riakporhe. “Even when he hits you on the arms you are going to feel it afterwards. Every time it is a tough spar and you need to have a cold bath.
“At the same time it gives me mental strength because you do it all again. I’ve seen him knock out people in sparring who are wearing headguards and he’s using 20oz gloves. If I can stand and mix it with him then I can mix it with a lot of people.
“He’s like an older brother, he wants the best for me.”
Riakporhe says his own strength has pros and cons.
“Earlier in my career my punch power has been a blessing – and a curse,” he said. “Sometimes I go looking for the big shot to take them out and it comes across as a bit telegraphed.
“After I started working on my boxing – using my jab – the knockouts have come naturally. I’m going to step up my game for this fight and I know for a fact that the knockout will probably come sooner or later.”
There has been some noise about Riakporhe facing current British and Commonwealth champion Lawrence Okolie.
But another intriguing match-up could be a South London scrap against Isaac Chamberlain.
The pair are pals, but that would not prevent it from happening according to Riakporhe.
“He is a good friend of mine but I spar with close friends and we try to knock each other out.
“I don’t see any difference in having a real fight, especially if money is involved and world titles.
“Who would say: ‘That’s my friend – I’m not going to fight him?’ I think that is ridiculous. If you have a goal in life it doesn’t matter who or what is in the way, you go out to achieve that goal.
“It’s a touchy one, but for me it would be a good fight. We know each other inside out because we have sparred hundreds of rounds. It would be very entertaining for the public.”
Clapham’s Kirk Garvey lost to Andre Sterling for the vacant Southern Area light-heavyweight title on Saturday.
The 28-year-old was on the wrong end of a 96-94 scorecard.
Garvey’s record slips to 11-2.