What Next For Richard Riakporhe After Big Knockout Win?

'Midnight Train' is coming off a huge knockout win over Deion Jumah
16:00, 28 Mar 2022

Richard Riakporhe won the battle of the unbeaten British cruiserweights on Saturday night, folding Deion Jumah with a body shot in the eighth round. ‘Midnight Train’ moved to 14-0 (10 KOs), but he did not have things all his own way at Wembley Arena. Promoter Ben Shalom was quick to talk up his man challenging for a world title next time out, with WBA boss Arsen Goulamirian reportedly in the frame.

A bout with the unbeaten Frenchman would represent a massive step-up in class for Riakporhe. The 32-year-old has conquered domestic class, winning the British title and beating stand-out names like Jumah, Jack Massey and Chris Billam-Smith. But he is still under-seasoned at world level. Olanrewaju Durodola, who Riakporhe beat last November, has mixed in good company. But at the age of 41, the Nigerian had seen better days. There is a scarcity of even fringe world contenders on Riakporhe’s record. These sorts of fighters provide not only important opportunities to advance up the rankings (interestingly Riakporhe was unrated by the WBA going into Saturday), but also valuable experience. World class fighters pose the sort of problems one must solve to win titles. Riakporhe has had no such tests as of yet.

A couple of wise old stagers might be worthwhile opponents before facing Goulamirian. Jumah was able to make Riakporhe miss at Wembley, and ‘Midnight Train’ found himself outworked at times. This is far from a disaster, Jumah was an unbeaten fighter and Riakporhe did well to have him down in the fourth before stopping him in the eighth. But it was a fight that suggested a little more world-level seasoning could be in order.

If Goulamirian is the target, there are fighters in the WBA rankings who would prepare Riakporhe for such a challenge. Firat Arslan is somehow still winning at the ripe old age of 51, holding the WBA international title at present. The German former world champion has seen it all in a 62-fight career, and would represent a safe test at this stage. Badou Jack ruled as super-middleweight champion, and fought as a title contender at light-heavyweight. He plies his trade at cruiserweight now, and he brings experience but lacks the size to put Riakporhe in danger. He would be another great choice for a learning fight at this stage. 

At the same time, Richard and his promoters can’t be blamed for taking on a world title challenge. Riakporhe is a young 32, having started amateur boxing at the relatively-late age of 19 and completing his studies before going pro. But despite not having many miles on the clock, it is impossible to completely stem the flow of time. Riakporhe will be keen to take full advantage of his physical peak. It is some peak too, with the destruction of Jumah demonstrating the immense physical power of ‘Midnight Train’. 

Ultimately, it is very difficult for a fighter to turn down a world title shot when one is offered. Should the Goulamirian bout get made, it will arguably arrive at an imperfect time. Conversely, there is recent precedent for such a gamble working out. Fellow cruiser Lawrence Okolie had fought largely domestic and European level opponents before his WBO cruiserweight title fight with Krzysztof Glowacki. ‘The Sauce’ stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park, stopping the experienced Pole in six rounds. The truth is you never know how far a fighter can go until you take the shackles off.

It looks like it won’t be long before we find out how far Richard Riakporhe can go. Arsen Goulamirian is unbeaten, but he has also been out of the ring since 2019. Riakporhe has racked up three wins, and some very valuable ring time, in that same period. Could this be enough for a fresher Riakporhe to lift the gold? Time will tell.

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