Richard Riakporhe has been preparing for Saturday’s rematch with Chris Billam-Smith for over 18 months.

On Saturday at Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park they contest Billam-Smith’s WBO cruiserweight title, aware that five years have passed since they previously fought.

Riakporhe, like Billam-Smith aged 34, won via split decision after 10 competitive rounds on that occasion – inflicting the defending champion’s only ever defeat – and has watched from afar while his rival has since consistently improved.

It is as Billam-Smith’s mandatory challenger that he enters his highest-profile fight, and he does so in the belief that Billam-Smith has little desire to fight him again.

As the fighter from south London they are also fighting on what he considers to be his territory, presenting him with a potential advantage on an occasion he ultimately considers overdue.

“I’ve wanted this fight for a very long time,” he said. “We’ve been trying to make this fight since just before [stopping, in January 2023, Krzysztof] Glowacki. I thought that would have been perfect for us just to see where we’re at, because we beat him before, we improved a lot; we improved vastly, and everybody in my team believed that we could beat him. Properly. 

“It was one of those things where we were challenging ourselves, but unfortunately they wasn’t really interested. They wanted to go for the title and stuff, and in the end it paid off anyway. But now we’re here, it’s good – we can still do what we planned to do.

“The truth is we’re not trying just to be a world champion. That’s not what we came to do. That’s a part of the journey. We wanna do much more, and there’s hard fights; there’s hard guys out there, man. More dangerous than Chris Billam-Smith. If we want to be able to compete at heavyweight – whether it’s bridgerweight or cruiserweight – we have to be taking these guys out. That’s the truth. That’s the truth.

“If I wasn’t mandatory I wouldn’t be here. This wouldn’t be happening. That’s the truth. I’m mandatory – that’s why this fight’s happening. 

“The trainer [Billam-Smith works under Shane McGuigan] knew all the weaknesses of [on the night Billam-Smith became champion, Lawrence] Okolie, and it was just, perfect. He actually got the fight – got him to defend it at his home ground. It was set up for him to win.”

Riakporhe also believes that he has improved since their first fight, and that Billam-Smith has physically declined.

“[In 2019 he was] very good,” Riakporhe said. “I think he was better. He was fast on his feet; he was lively; he was a handful. I wouldn’t say he’s less of a fighter, but I believe he’s deteriorated over time. Natural wear and tear, which happens to us all.

“You’re going to see [my improvement] on Saturday. It’s more mental. It’s intangible. More mental; spiritual. 

“He’s gonna need confidence, because he’s getting in with a proper fighter. He’s gonna be like climbing Mount Everest.

“All of my friends can come out to support me – my friends and family. Not all of them have been able to turn up to my fights, so it’s a special moment for me [to be fighting in south London].

“I’m a very ambitious individual. I want to go to the top of this sport.”

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