BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Richard Riakporhe is confident he will be the new British cruiserweight champion – with the Walworth knockout specialist facing Jack Massey for the vacant title on December 19.
The South Londoner, 29, went the distance for only the second time in his career in July – taking a split decision over the previously unbeaten Chris Billam-Smith to retain his WBA Inter-Continental title at Greenwich’s 02 Arena.
Now Riakporhe (10-0) headlines Matchroom Boxing’s NXTGEN show at Bethnal Green’s York Hall, live on Sky Sports and also screened by DAZN in the United States.
Once again it is a fellow undefeated prospect in the opposite corner with Derbyshire’s Massey
16-0 in the paid ranks. An arm injury ruled him out of a July clash with Lawrence Okolie for the British and Commonwealth belts.
“I’m over the moon to be fighting for the British title at the top of a bill at York Hall,” said Riakporhe. “I’ve been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time and now it’s here I need to grab it with both hands.
“Jack is a decent opponent. I heard that he beat Chris Billam-Smith in the amateurs so he should have a good pedigree. He’s unbeaten in the professional ranks with a strong record. This should be a decent test for me.
“Jack will come to fight and he’ll go for it, but I’ll be too strong for him. I’ll have too much will and determination – I’m going to light him up like a Christmas tree. A win here could lead to even bigger opportunities and I know what I have to do.”
Riakporhe is definitely the biggest challenge of Massey’s career, who has no standout wins on his boxing résumé.
“I’m in the best shape of my life and I feel great,” said Massey. “I’ve had a few setbacks recently, but they’ve made me even hungrier for this opportunity. I’ve got to come away with that British title on the night and I’ll give my all for it.
“This has got the makings of a great fight, we’re both big punchers and we both know how to finish a fight. This will be my first time fighting at York Hall. It’s a prestigious place to fight and a prestigious belt to win.
“There’s a lot on the line – a win would be massive for me.”
Matchroom Boxing boss Eddie Hearn said: “Riakporhe is quickly establishing himself as one of the most feared cruiserweights on the domestic scene and secured an impressive breakout win over Chris Billam-Smith last time out.
“Massey has been waiting for an opportunity like this for a while and finally lands his big chance after the disappointment of his summer injury.
Some of the best up-and-coming talents in the country will be looking to impress on the undercard with all of the action shown live on Sky Sports and DAZN.”
Billam-Smith can become Commonwealth champion on Saturday as he takes on Craig Glover for the vacant Commonwealth title in Liverpool. He has his eye on a return with Riakporhe in 2020.
“I’m going straight back into a big domestic fight and that’s exactly what I wanted,” said Billam-Smith. “It can’t be a bad fight. We both like to let our hands go, we both like to get stoppages, throw big shots, there’s not any running from either of us.
“He’s not going to be holding and stuff like Riakporhe was. It will be a very physical fight but a lot less grappling and a lot more big shots going in.
“Last time at The O2 was a great experience, it was a good fight, one we thought that we won. That’s obviously a rematch that I’d like in the future.
“He’s going for the British title next month, so maybe we can get it on for that in the new year. First up it’s Craig and he has my full attention and respect.”
PICTURES BY KEITH GILLARD