The Richard Riakporhe of a decade ago might not have truly believed it were he told the Richard Riakporhe of 2022 would find himself on the brink of a world title opportunity. Then again, perhaps he would have as somebody who knew he always wanted to make himself known.
At the foundation of The Midnight Train’s ascent is near-tragedy when he was left fighting for his life having being stabbed over a mobile phone after leaving a party 17 years ago, with boxing later presenting itself as an out for Riakporhe in an environment tarnished by crime.
His rise has, meanwhile, consisted of the same small-card patience and slow-burn feel to which many upcoming fighters can attest, along with a significant period of inactivity.
Riakporhe is now unbeaten as a professional at 15-0 after a second-round TKO win over Fabio Turchi in June and sniffing around the cruiserweight belt holders as one of the most dangerous men in the division.
“I’m so thankful, I’m thankful to myself,” Riakporhe told Sky Sports. “I thank myself for getting up, for getting on those runs, for having that faith and belief that things will change for the better in the future and I thank myself most importantly for being consistent and dedicated to the craft even though there was a whole load of distractions all around me.
“I’m currently writing a book and putting everything in there so people can understand me on a deeper level and the adversities I had to overcome to get to where I am now. I’m definitely proud to myself.
“I think looking back it’s been a very successful year, we’ve been very active within the last 12 months, we’ve had four fights.
“The most active fighter on the planet, I’m happy to actually say that because once upon a time I was on a big lay-off and it wasn’t my fault.
“I did have the injury but there was part of it where I should have been active and back in the ring but because of contractual issues and stuff that prevented me from doing what I love.”
Riakporhe turned to boxing as a means of escaping the crime and distractions he admits came his way, and has since set out to help steer others in a similar position towards the opportunities provided by the sport.
“I always wanted to do something with my life, I always wanted to put myself on the map,” he explained.
“I feel like life is a beautiful experience, but more needs to be done, I don’t just want to be a normal individual, I wanted to do something exciting, something that gets my adrenaline rushing through my body.
“Just being able to write a legacy and inspire younger generations, that was one of my key drives. I wanted to be an example to other youth growing up in south-east London on council estates that if Richard can do it, why can’ you do it?
“I wasn’t boxing for a very long time, I didn’t have all the skill I needed to perform but somehow I found a way. That’s the mindset I’m trying to show a lot of youth.”
In his new chapter of success, recognition, expectation and world title contention, Riakporhe often reminds himself of the life he once lived in order to preserve the same integrity on which he prides himself.
“The way I kept it was just by understanding, the beginning, the aim, looking back and not forgetting where I came from, what my intentions were when I started boxing,” he added. “Before all of the fame, before the fortune, just maintaining that.
“Sometimes you get to a point where a lot of things are going on, you meet a lot of people around the world, you get more attention, more distractions, sometimes you have to look back and say ‘I remember coming up and there was none of this’, I need to maintain that same energy, same mindset
“Once distractions come into your world, that’s when everybody goes astray.”
Riakporhe is seeking a return to the ring at some point in December having fought four times over a 12-month period since signing with BOXXER and Sky Sports.
He sits the IBF rankings sixth in the WBC rankings and 11th in the WBO rankings, the latter of which is ruled by Lawrence Okolie.
“Our plan is world domination, it’s nice and simple, but it’s not simple,” joked Riakporhe. “We didn’t come here to participate, we came here to be No 1, and I remember starting off looking at the British boxing rankings, I remember I was 66th and I’m like ‘wow, it’s a long way up’.
“We’re top 10 in the cruiserweight division, undefeated, top five at that very dangerous now, respected all around the world level, even to the point fighters wouldn’t even take the opportunity to share the ring with a great like myself.
“We have to go and force it, we have to go and call people out and tell them to jump in the ring with us. You can’t call yourself a fighter if you’re running and ducking, it doesn’t make no You’re better off going to box on the YouTuber’s cards.
“World domination, we’re winning all them titles, moving up to heavyweight and knocking everybody out. That’s the plan.”
An all-British clash with Okolie has naturally emerged as one of the most coveted cruiserweight title fights with the potential to take place in the not-too-distant future.
“There are a lot of fighters on my radar, Okolie is definitely one of them, I think that would make a great fight in the UK, all-British clash,” Riakporhe said.
“I think I’ve had five all-British clashes with my opponents being top-10 fighters in the UK already, it’s nothing new to me.
“It’s just another fight to me, my confidence is sky high. I’ve come through with flying colours, so let’s get it on.”
It is also anything but a secret by now that Riakporhe has his sights set on an eventual dream fight night at Selhurst Park, the home of his beloved Crystal Palace.
“That’s my dream, just the chanting really pumps me up,” he said. “Hearing that ‘Glad all over’ song.
“I love the fans, the Palace fans are so loyal, they stick beside you, they support you, I get tones of messages every single day. I feel like I’m not alone in this journey, I’ve got people that support me and actually want me to win. It’s a beautiful thing, a beautiful connection.
“I’m always on the phone to Steve (Palace part-owner and chairman Steve Parish), they’re keen on making this happen. We’re going to make it happen, 100 percent.”