Power-punching cruiserweight Richard Riakporhe is primed to challenge the winner of Sunday’s world title fight between Chris Billam-Smith and Mateusz Masternak.
After beating Lawrence Okolie to win the championship, Billam-Smith puts the WBO cruiserweight belt on the line against Masternak, live on Sky Sports Arena from 6pm on Sunday.
Riakporhe is the No 1 ranked contender with the WBO and is expected to be called as the mandatory challenger for the Billam-Smith vs Masternak winner next.
The Londoner is particularly eager to rematch reigning champion Billam-Smith. They fought early on in their professional careers, with Riakporhe edging out the Bournemouth man then. Riakporhe has already declared that with more experience he’d have knocked out Billam-Smith.
He wants to get his world title shot against Billam-Smith, but knows that Masternak is a very dangerous opponent for him.
“I’ve done a few camps with Mateusz Masternak. I understand his style, I know the way he fights. I know what he’s going to bring,” Riakporhe told Sky Sports.
“He’s definitely a warrior, very tough and I think that fight is going to be a very entertaining fight for the boxing public.
“The styles will definitely gel. Masternak’s a warrior. His dream is to become a world champion.
“I think CBS should do it, but he can’t take his eye off the ball. He has to be on point every single round, switched on.”
Promoter Ben Shalom knows that’s the fight Riakporhe wants.
“It’s what he’s been waiting all year for. This is the fight he wants,” Shalom told Sky Sports. “He can’t wait [to fight] the winner.
“He’s been very, very patient. He deserves his chance. He’s worked his way up to mandatory positions in multiple governing bodies and he’ll be confident that he wins a world title next year.
“Richard will feel like: ‘Why is Chris Billam-Smith world champion? I’ve beat Chris Billam-Smith, I’ve done everything I’ve been asked to do. I’ve knocked out most of my opponents.’
“If it is Chris who comes through and it is the rematch it’s a huge, huge fight.”
The champion though is taking a considerable risk on Sunday. “It could be Masternak [who wins]. It could be Billam-Smith. I think the closer this gets the more people are realising this could go either way,” Shalom said.
“He’ll have to hope the WBO order the mandatory straight after this fight and then we can get it on as soon as possible. Lawrence Okolie wants his title back as well.”
Shane McGuigan, the trainer who has guided Billam-Smith to his world championship, knows they can’t afford to look past Masternak.
“He’s boxed [Yuniel] Dorticos, he’s boxed all of the great names,” McGuigan said of the challenger.
“He’s been around for ages. He boxed Tony Bellew in 2015 for the European title. He’s dangerous. He really is. Because he throws combinations. He fights in that range where Chris gets all of his success. He’s good in that range as well. Chris wins a lot of his fights in short range.
“Masternak will be setting traps and punches hard enough to keep Chris honest the whole way throughout the fight. As Chris said it will be a great fight. Look at any of Chris’ fights and look at Masternak.”
Victory would set Billam-Smith up for a rematch with Riakporhe, the only man to have beaten him as a professional.
“He’s a much better fighter than what he was the night he boxed Riakporhe. He’s a lot more seasoned he’s a lot calmer. He knows he can do the distance. He knows when to push rounds, he knows when to pull back, in terms of expanding energy,” McGuigan said of Billam-Smith.
“He’s prepared to do stuff that a lot of fighters aren’t at the top level. To force the fight, to press and a lot of people just aren’t prepared to do that.
“Look at how many people Lawrence Okolie had settled throughout his career, just nullified them. After two or three rounds he’s completely nullified them and then they just lost all hope and will. Not with Chris.
“He hurt him throughout the fight and was the one that was forcing it, was the one that was taking the fight to him all the time.
“He’s a very underrated fighter and I hope he continues to get the success but also the appreciation within the industry.”
Watch Chris Billam-Smith vs Mateusz Masternak live on Sky Sports Arena from 6pm on Sunday