Richard Riakporhe could have fought as a cruiserweight for the final time.

The 34-year-old lost for the first time as a professional on Saturday night when, at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park, he recorded a unanimous decision defeat by Chris Billam-Smith, the WBO champion.

He had previously beaten Billam-Smith, also 34, via split decision in 2019, but struggled to be competitive on an evening when it was tempting to conclude that he had struggled to make the 200lbs cruiserweight limit.

The heavy-handed Riakporhe has long spoken of his desire to eventually compete at heavyweight, and his promoter Ben Shalom, of Boxxer, revealed that even in the event of victory his next act may have been to move up.

“Richard’s got an eye on bridgerweight and heavyweight as well, so there’s huge options,” Shalom said. “I think the whole of the cruiserweight division was looking [at Billam-Smith-Riakporhe II] because it’s the most money; the most fans, and let’s be honest, most of them will fancy it.

“Sometimes the heavyweight division gets tied up. If you look at Oleksandr Usyk now – who’s the king of the heavyweight division – you look at David Haye and what he did. It’s [cruiserweight] got a history of producing fantastic heavyweights, and I think you’re gonna see that with Lawrence Okolie; you’re gonna see that with Richard Riakporhe. There’s that side of it. Probably Jai Opetaia will end up at heavyweight. 

“It’s a fantastic division in the sense you get to see big lads in 50-50 fights, and the fights are fairly easy to make. The four best cruiserweights [Jack Massey defeated Isaac Chamberlain to win the European and Commonwealth titles] in the country were on the card. The cruiserweight division is an interesting one right now.” 

Since his latest victory Billam-Smith, his trainer Shane McGuigan and Shalom have spoken about him potentially fighting the WBA champion Gilberto Ramirez.

“There’s Opetaia there – who some people think we’re trying to avoid, but we’re not,” the promoter said. “There’s obviously Ramirez out in the US, which I actually think is Chris’ favourite fight, because he’s got an eye over there.

“[Massey, having defeated Chamberlain, is] knocking on the door [for a world-title fight]. This is a guy that went the distance with [heavyweight contender] Joseph Parker, and look at how that’s aged.” 

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