Richard Riakporhe targets world title shot, Lawrence Okolie showdown in 2023

Richard Riakporhe will step in with former world champion Krzysztof Glowacki at the Manchester Arena on Saturday. James Chance/Getty Images

Richard Riakporhe might not be a name you are familiar with, but the cruiserweight contender insists this will be his breakout year.

As long as he maintains his unbeaten record against former world champion Krzysztof Glowacki at the Manchester Arena on Saturday, Riakporhe is confident he will land bigger opportunities later this year, including a world title shot.

Riakporhe (15-0, 11 KOs) is No. 2 with the IBF and No. 5 with the WBC world governing bodies, but it is English rival Lawrence Okolie (18-0, 14 KOs), the WBO champion and ESPN's No. 2 at 200 pounds, who he hopes to face this year.

A rematch with Chris Billam-Smith (17-1, 12 KOs), also from England and a high-ranking contender, is on Riakporhe's wish list, with a series of fights against English rivals.

"It will be a different conversation about me this time next year," Riakporhe told ESPN.

"I have a good feeling about this year, opportunities are going to come and I'm going to take them.

"My promoter Ben Shalom had a plan to get all of the top cruiserweights in the UK under one banner with BOXXER and Sky Sports. Okolie is coming over [to BOXXER] and is having his first fight in March, Chris Billam-Smith is over here and I'm over here so it's going to be easy to make the fights.

"Every single issue that arises in boxing is because one fighter is with one broadcaster, and the other fighter is with another broadcaster, so they can't get the big fights on. This has affected the following of boxing. People just want to see the best fights but they don't get it. Some of the fans just don't have a clue what this is about and how complicated it is, and this has diverted some fans to watching YouTube boxing, UFC, MMA.

"Those [cruiserweight] fights are easy to get made because the fighters are all under the same banner.

"I want all of them. I have dealt with a bunch of British fighters. I'm more motivated to fight British fighters, when there's more pride, bragging rights and ego. I have always believed I'm the best."

Riakporhe, 33, from London, only started boxing aged 19, has a marketing communications degree and campaigns against the dangers of knife crime after he was stabbed in the chest as a teenager.

After starting his professional boxing career in 2016, Riakporhe can take a step closer to a first world title shot if he defeats the more experienced Glowacki (32-3, 20 KOs), 36, the former WBO world champion who Okolie stopped in six rounds in March 2021. Meanwhile, Okolie, 30, defends his WBO belt against David Light, from New Zealand, on March 11.

"I'm very happy with where my career is at, I've been kept active by my promoter BOXXER which is what I needed and in my last three fights I've won them all by knockout," Riakporhe told ESPN.

"Glowacki is perfect timing. Looking back at my last couple fights the opponents were at the same level as him and I had no Christmas, I was just in the gym preparing for this fight.

"People want to see how well I do against Glowacki compared to how Okolie did it. But getting the victory is the most important thing, when you try to do more than what is needed it can end up going pear shaped."

Riakporhe also has ambitions to step up to heavyweight. David Haye, also from south London like Riakporhe, successfully stepped up from cruiserweight to heavyweight and won world titles in both weight divisions before retiring in 2018.

"Absolutely I would like a chance at fighting at heavyweight," Riakporhe told ESPN.

"At this game, we have one chance, one career and I would like to know how I would fair against the best heavyweights in the world.

"I'm 6ft 5in tall, with a wide frame and very long limbs. I can hold a lot of weight and I've sparred a lot of heavyweights. Making 200 pounds is not easy. Naturally I can go up to heavyweight for some big fights -- all the best fighters from cruiserweight do it, from Evander Holyfield to Oleksandr Usyk -- and I want to challenge myself."