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Richard Riakporhe’s rise from near death to Selhurst Park dream world title fight against Chris Billam-Smith

Watch Chris Billam-Smith defend his WBO cruiserweight world championship against Richard Riakporhe at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park, live on Sky Sports on Saturday June 15; Light-heavyweight stars Ben Whittaker and Dan Azeez feature on the undercard

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Crystal Palace fan Richard Riakporhe came face to face with Chris Billam-Smith at Selhurst Park ahead of their WBO cruiserweight world title fight, live on Sky Sports on Saturday, June 15th.

Selhurst Park is only a few miles from the Aylesbury Estate in south London, where Richard Riakporhe grew up.

But Riakporhe has come a terribly long way to reach this point when, on Saturday, he fights for a world title at the Crystal Palace ground.

To challenge for the WBO championship this weekend, live on Sky Sports, at the stadium of the football club he supports, in a rematch against British rival Chris Billam-Smith for him is the stuff of dreams.

It marks the culmination of a journey that he almost didn't get to start. When he was just 15, Riakporhe was the victim of a stabbing that he was lucky to survive. He still bears the scar from that brush with death. It's a reminder now of how he changed his whole life.

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Chris Billam-Smith got a cold response from Richard Riakporhe when he predicted he will retain his WBO world title by knockout on Saturday night.

"I came off the streets straight into the boxing gym," he told Sky Sports. "I came through the hard way.

"I learned like a true apprentice."

The Lynn, the oldest boxing club in the country and an institution in south east London, set him on that new path.

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"I fell in love with the sport. It gave me purpose, it gave me drive, it gave me something to do, kept me out of a lot of trouble and before you know it, before long I was actually competing for amateur championships," Riakporhe said.

"I said you know what, I want to pursue my passion and my passion was boxing. I just felt like it was perfect for me and who I am as a human being. I'm very ambitious. I always wanted to work towards something in my life and it just matched everything."

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Don't miss our latest episode of 'The Gloves Are Off' featuring cruiserweight rivals Chris Billam-Smith and Richard Riakporhe.

He didn't even realise he had a unique quality that would subsequently mark him out as a professional - his fearsome punch power.

In his first amateur bout, he hesitated. He backpedalled.

"I didn't want to get hit. I always believed as an amateur that everybody possessed the same power that I did. I thought it was normal to be able to punch like that. I didn't want to get hit with that type of power so I was just always moving and then when I landed my shots the fight was over. I knocked him out in the first round," Riakporhe recalled.

"It was a run of KOs. I remember going in the championships and knocking out everybody to get to the finals. I was known for being a big puncher from way back then."

Billam-Smith, on his own quest to avenge his only career defeat against Riakporhe, believes he can turn the Londoner's power-punching into a weakness. He thinks Riakporhe relies too much on that power, waiting for a knockout and giving up rounds. That Billam-Smith fully intends to exploit.

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Ahead of Chris Billam-Smith's WBO cruiserweight world title fight with Richard Riakporhe at Selhurst Park, take a look back at some of the biggest stadium fights in British boxing history.

Riakporhe naturally rejected that notion. "That's complete nonsense," he said.

"It doesn't matter whether I'm being lazy or not, whether I'm winning the rounds or not. There are fights that I've been in where I didn't come with the intention to win the rounds. I just wanted the knockout.

"I've hit so many people that I know that when I land my shots I will cause a lot of damage, even if they don't get knocked out."

He did acknowledge: "It's a blessing to have a skill like that but it can be a curse at the same time. It can make you a bit lazy.

"I've gone back to the gym and I've rectified that laziness and that's what makes me even more dangerous now."

This fight will be Riakporhe's first attempt to win a world title, but he has beaten Billam-Smith before.

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The Toe2Toe panel discuss the WBO cruiserweight world title fight between Chris Billam-Smith and Richard Riakporhe and whether Riakporhe's natural power will be a problem again for Billam-Smith's shaky defence.

"He has to rectify the loss. He has to get one back," the Londoner said. "He can't live with his own failure and that's the blemish on his record to me.

"Because guess what, it's actually brought him back full circle to me.

"So what does that mean? Have you really progressed? Because if you'd really progressed you wouldn't be having to see the 'Midnight Train' once again. But we're back here."

He added: "I'm not giving 'The Gentleman' no more chance. There's not going to be no trilogy. This fight is where it ends. I'll do it again and that's it. There'll be no third chance for him."

For Riakporhe winning this fight would "would mean everything".

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Ellie Scotney and George Groves share what they believe could make the difference in Chris Billam-Smith's fight against Richard Riakporhe.

"Because we had a goal and the goal was to become world champion and to move on from there. I never thought that I would be able to perform on the ground of my favourite football team. Just to be able to represent Crystal Palace was enough for me. That done it for me. For them to entrust me with their brand, what they represent, as a fellow south Londoner that is very humbling, very humbling for me," he said.

"I will do everything to make sure I bring that title, not only to win it for myself but also to bring to hope to everybody in south London. Everybody has their individual fights, things that they're going through that nobody knows, just to be a kind of reference to them.

"Like if I can do it coming from my background, all the things that I had to overcome, being stabbed when I was 15, nearly dying, being a product of my environment, being able to make it out, everything was always a fight and I just want to be that kind of reference to them. That I'm one of you. I'm no superstar.

"I'm just a normal guy. A normal working class guy that just had dreams and was ambitious and I made something of myself.

"You can also do the same too."

Final remaining tickets for Billam-Smith vs Riakporhe available via

Watch Chris Billam-Smith defend his WBO cruiserweight world title against Richard Riakporhe at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park, live on Sky Sports on Saturday June 15; or Stream with NOW

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