Undefeated South London pro boxer Richard Riakporhe says he’s lucky to be alive after being stabbed when he was only 15.
The 31-year-old has won all 11 of his professional fights, eight by KO, and is on track to challenge for the WBO cruiserweight title, but it wasn’t always life under the lights.
Richard grew up on the rough Aylesbury Estate in Walworth, Southwark. Speaking ahead of his bout with Krzysztof Twardowski at The SSE Arena, Wembley this Saturday (October 2), he told My London: “Growing up there was tough. It was a crime-ridden slum.
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“I saw some crazy things as a kid. I was surrounded by drugs dealers and drug addicts, and there were a lot of robberies, shootings and stabbings.
“All that was all just normal to me, or at least I was conditioned to think it was normal at the time.”
When Richard was only 15 his environment was nearly the death of him. While at a party with friends, a man lost his phone and approached them, assuming they had stolen it.
Richard recalls: “He said: ‘Give me your phones and any boy that hesitates will get stabbed.’”
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The boys refused to give the thug their phones and all three of them were stabbed. Richard’s injury was the most severe of the three.
“I was very close to dying. Doctors told me later than 90% of the people that get stabbed in the specific part of the chest that I did, die. It’s so close to the organs and the arteries,” he said.
He underwent surgery and started the process of recovery. “Because I was so young I didn’t understand the seriousness of what happened to me and how my decisions put me in that situation.
“It’s only now I’m older I release how blessed I am to be alive.”
The wound has left what has almost become his trademark – a scar cutting through the middle of his chest.
“That scar tells a story, my story. It’s a reminder of the things I’ve been through in life and how lucky I am to be here.”
At 19, after recovering from his wound, Richard discovered boxing, which he credits as his “way out” of that life.
He said: “I was unusually perceptive of my surroundings which motivated me to focus on looking ahead to the future.
“My thinking was: if I invest in myself now and stay clear of the gang lifestyle, I can shape my future. I didn’t want to get killed or go to prison. So my decision was to go to the gym.
“Boxing started taking up all of my time, I didn’t have time to hang around. And boxing, for me, is the perfect sport because it’s a lifestyle.
“The truth will show in the ring so you have to put in the work. There’s no better feeling than winning a boxing match. That drive is how I made my way out.”
Nineteen is a much later entry to the boxing world than most but Richard quickly caught up with his opponents by watching the skilful fighters and learning from them.
After sparring and learning the ropes, he went pro in 2016 and is yet to lose.
His secret: “It’s all about discipline, that will set you apart from the rest.
“My hunger and the drive has kept me going. And visiting my friends who I grew up with is a reminder that I never ever want to go back there.
“The hunger of wanting to change my life and do something with it is what got me here today. The willpower – that’s the real power.”
The unbeaten cruiserweight contender returns against Krzysztof Twardowski this Saturday
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