5 minute read
Interview: Sam // Words: Ollie
“Life is all about making decisions, you have that chance every single day…”
The Peacock Gym in East London is the setting for TheBerlinClub to sit down with the imposing WBA Cruiserweight Intercontinental Champion Richard Riakporhe to discuss life in the squared circle & beyond the ropes.
“My decisions mean I am not the same person as last year & won’t be the same person next year” he continues.
The Opening Bell. //
The 6ft 5 boxer begins the interview by explaining his upbringing: “I grew up in South East London on a big estate which has been knocked down now. A lot of people in that environment were up to no good, involved in all different sorts of crime to get by. I was from a low-income family surrounded by drug addicts…that was my norm. I saw guys with flashy cars gotten through ill gains & that is what I aspired to be like. They had power, money, they got attention from women…it’s natural for a young man to want these things”.
While the life once proved attractive, Richard can fortunately now look back on his situation more wisely: “Once you get involved in that world, the things they never told you about start to become a reality. For a couple of years, the thought of going to prison, getting into trouble with other people & having to prevent yourself from being killed was my reality”.
When questioned as to how he came to realise the falsehoods of this life, he says: “I realised it was a trap. It was an illusion to think you can make it out of that life free from prison or death. At best, you might end up selling drugs, or a drug addict yourself. I realised I needed to do something different”.
Fighting Back. //
While this epiphany was welcome to Richard’s family & friends, it unfortunately did not come before a serious incident could have taken any choice away. At 15, Richard was stabbed. “I shouldn’t even be here talking, I should be in a hole…that’s how serious the stabbing was. Even that didn’t completely change me, it took other people to die around me first. I knew then it was time to change my life for myself & for my family, if I was to have a future worth living” he reflects.
Explaining what happened next, Richard states: “I got into & began to compete in boxing. I realised I was quite decent, but my parents were also enthusiastic about me going to school & studying. I remember my coach advising me not to put all my eggs in one basket & pursue it too. I took it personally at the time, I thought he didn’t rate my ability, but he just meant there was & is no certainty in life. I undertook an access course & eventually got myself into Kingston University, studying Marketing Communications & Advertising”.
Despite education playing a pivotal role in giving Richard a different focus away from crime, it was boxing that stole his attention. He explains, “After I left university, I realised I wanted to pursue boxing & went professional a year after graduating. I have education to fall back on sure, but my ambitions are in boxing & I want to become a world champion. I still have a long way to go, but I am on the right path”.
The 29-year-old is still early in his boxing journey but is able to grasp the opportunities the sport has afforded him to date: “When I was on the streets, I realised we got into problems simply because of boredom. Your environment is crucial to your progress. There is a saying that if you hang around five rich people, you are going to be the sixth. Boxing has given me discipline, allowed me to meet great people & above all, has kept me occupied. When you are training all week & competing at the weekend, you don’t have the time or energy to get into trouble”.
Summarising his current thought process, he notes, “I’m boxing on Sky Sports & winning titles now, but you must remember where you came from. My deprived & difficult childhood has given me the hunger to strive for better. A man once said to me that if you want to live a better lifestyle tomorrow, you’ve got to work hard today. That is what I live by”.
Championship Rounds. //
With an upcoming fight for the prestigious British Title looming, it would be easy to be unnerved by the pressure & spotlight that awaits, but Richard Riakporhe is unmoved. “You have to be comfortable about being uncomfortable, especially in boxing. The Jack Massey fight will be a good challenge” he says.
Despite being the favourite, Richard is by no means taking the bout lightly: “To win the British Title would be amazing, but I don’t take it for granted. Tyson Fury boxed against Otto Wallin earlier this year & ended up with serious damage to his eye. There is no such thing as an easy fight, but when I get in that ring, I will be excited, confident & ready to destroy my opponent”.
If he is successful, big things will surely await, including that elusive world title shot he craves, but the Kingston graduate is keen to stress his battles haven’t just been in the ring: “I have had a lot of adversity to get to the position I am in right now. I use the energy to motivate myself. Being here after all that I have been through, it just feels like my destiny to get to the top. I have the tools & attributes to get me there & with more experience, my goal will be achieved I am sure”.
He is also clear on another goal he has in mind: “My quest is to keep inspiring people who come from nothing. I feel like that is more powerful than me winning world honours”.
We conclude our time with Richard by asking for advice to up & coming talents in boxing & beyond. He replies, “I would say keep your life simple, don’t complicate things. You should not care what people think, that held me back. Life began when I started to be free of those opinions”.
Richard Riakporhe is a standout example of how a difficult beginning does not have to mean a difficult end. As he says poetically himself, “success is not a destination, it’s a lifestyle”
Follow Richard @r_riakporhe