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Craig Richards talks British Title wait, Buatsi Johnson, Pitters Sugden, Beterbiev & Matchroom Gym

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This is Ryan Elliott for Boxing Social in association with Betfred and down at the Matchroom gym. I'm delighted to be joined by 'The Spider' Craig Richards. Craig, thank you very much for joining me. How are you first of all?

Good. I'm good, thank you.

That's good to hear. Now everyone's back in the gym- at their gyms buzzing, all work and all sort of- fight dates or waiting the phone call like yourself. How long you been back and how nice to be back with the boys as well, getting back to work?

Been a couple weeks I've been back now. You know, I've been taking over- outside of here just doing my rounds, got a heavy bag at home, just working, you know. But now it's better to be back with the boys, (inaudible - 00:00:39) picking up, work rate up and learning things again and moving forward, you know?

During that lockdown time, a lot of fighters have been sort of having to work on their own and do things on their own and stay self-motivated. How did you find that personally for that few months that you had to sort of pick yourself up and stay busy on your own?

I found it alright. I like- what's the word? I like routine so I made sure that I had a routine each week, like the first week of lockdown, obviously I was unwell just before the lockdown. I got back into it and in the week off, I took a rest- the first lockdown week. And then I started pushing hard again on my runs and stuff. I mean I kind of got a little bit bored, started doing a bit of cycling as well. And then a few bit- like circuits and stuff. So- and then I found like a fun- That first week or so is on apps and talking and just having fun. And then I got back into routine and got a bit more discipline and started occupying my time a lot better and going to routine, really.

Now boxing necessarily retained a lot your stable mates do have- sort of dates, a lot of them are on this fight camp schedule that we're gonna see in August, just around the corner from here.

Yeah.

With regards to yourself, have you heard anything about a date or any opponents?

Oh, I think we're looking probably about September, October probably. I'll be ready for them. So I was waiting on hearing about was going on with the British. We heard that McKenna, he's closed his stuff up behind closed doors and got two of his fighters to fight out for that and honestly, I keep my mandatory fight for the winner of that. But in the meantime, we're working and- we'll fight or not fight or whatever. In the meantime, I just want to get active and keep pushing forward in my career now. I've been a mandatory for the British title for like, over a year now. I think I won my final eliminator last June. I boxed a lot of top- a lot of boys in the country, top ten now, so I feel like it's ready to kind of move on to the next stage. So maybe winning that and pushing on might be good or whatever. Obviously got the rankings now in a couple of governing bodies. IBF, WBA, ranked number 9. So I'm just looking to push forward in my career now so I don't really want to be stalemated. I wanna keep momentum and keep moving forward.

How frustrating has that time been for you, sort of waiting for that shot at the British knowing that yes, you would love to win the British title and- but ultimately, to move on to bigger and better things as well. Has it been frustrating, just sort of playing that waiting game?

It's a little bit frustrating because it's like the first six months after doing my eliminator was kind of waiting for an opponent. Of course as I want it, Joshua had it. He's vacated and moved on. And then, I was waiting for a dance partner. Six months later, I got one. There was a bit of back and forth going with that. And then obviously, I got ill and then the whole lockdown happened, all the shows got cancelled. I had obviously recovered and was ready to go, was waiting on a date. And then you hear the news and then you just push on, really. Just now you're just waiting to keep the momentum going, really. That's what it is.

With that said, you're looking at a date but it must be bizarre going into a date knowing that you've- you've got a big domestic fight possibly months down the line and waiting to see what happens with regards to that fight. What sort of level opponent you looking at for that? You know, it must be bizarre trying to match yourself when you're waiting for a bigger fight down the line.

Yes, it's like- but you can see I don't really take- I didn't really take any easy fights if you look on my last three fights. Even the one I took on a couple weeks’ notice, you had that- Chad Sugden, he was fighting on the 21st of December. They asked to fight me on the 19th, so I accepted a few weeks to go. So you go- and he got to change his date by two days out to- obviously, get back momentum and I wouldn't enlist a guy who's only had 12- was 11 on 1, you know? And looking to push on in his career and I took that in the meantime to wait for my British title shot. So it's not like I'm trying to get a rubbish guy with a losing record and to just take over. I'm still taking tough fights. I'm still trying to push on and keep momentum and be up for the fights and be in competitive fights still. And even that fight- didn't really get me up for it, if I'm honest. So I just want to be in good decent fights and push on in my career and just keep trying to aim to reach my goals.

You touched on the fight with Chad there, it was an 8 rounder. Close fight by all means. You said that you weren't really up for that fight necessarily. When you look back and reflect upon it now, what do you make of your performance in the fight itself?

I knew I wasn't going for the gears. My manager and my trainer was telling me every round like, why are you not going for your gears and I was like, in my head, I was thinking like- I think 2nd or 3rd I could see he was like a bit of a bloody mess. His nose is broken, I saw his eye was closed and I thought, I know I don't really have to go through my gears. I believe he's gonna get stopped at some point. See, in my head I just kind of swore I'll just take this off, get the win and go home. And my manager was kind of a bit like- Peter, my trainer was obviously saying to me at the time like, stop being complacent just go out there and get the job done. But in my head, I'll just ignore. The job's gonna be done, let's just take this off and move on. I didn't- wasn't focused on him, didn't prepare for him even. The week before, I was still sparring and getting ready for the British title fight. And yeah, I just- I just didn't go for the gears I fought like- I was still winning the fight, I was in control of the fight. I could have- obviously, made it even like- a lot easier but yeah, that's what I made of it, really. I didn't really take- I didn't really go for the gears and do what I needed to do.

With that said, is that a lesson learned? Do you think we're gonna see a more mature Craig Richards on the back of that experience? You know, especially when you're gonna be in a similar position, having a fight while waiting for that that British title shot as well.

A million percent. I've been really doing a lot of reflection as well and it's hard because sometimes I put- even I look at a lot of my performances, some of them have been hit and miss, some of them I'm just turning up, you can see I'm just coming to do my job, get the win and go home. Sometimes, when I've been the underdog and the fight's- there's big things at stake or I'm the underdog, I turn up, I perform, I go and get the job done. You see my capabilities and I'm improving in the gym and I don't feel like- I feel like I've been waiting for that fight to demonstrate that but I shouldn't be like that. I should do that every fight. I should be going out there showing- showing the fans how good I am every single time. And I think one thing I reflected on is I need to show everyone how good I am now. I need to stop just being complacent, thinking I register and going home until I get the big fight to show everyone. I need to do that every time to make my mark in the division.

With that said Craig, Sugden-Pitters was officially announced today. How do you see that fight playing out? Who do you expect you'll be fighting for the British title?

I don't know, they both got things they do alright, both got things they don't. He's got a reach, probably not as tough. Chad's quite tough, not as- probably got more limited on certain things. I'm not sure. I'm not bothered. Whoever it is, I'm happy to take on and go and get the job done.

Now, with regard to yourself, you touched on it earlier in the interview. You are actually world ranked for a couple of governing bodies right now. You said you're also ready to get past the domestic scene once these fights are sort of- out the way with. Is that gonna be the next focus for you, keep climbing those rankings beyond the British title?

I believe so. Because look, if you think about it yourself- look at my division, you look at other divisions. Now you look at the domestic scene. People often have one big domestic fight, mainly for the British. Make their mark and then people are like, alright yeah, they're world level now, he's world level. He's gotta push on. I've had like- how many- like four good domestic wins? And I'm still at this level. So I could have pushed on ages ago. It's just the fact that I haven't crowned it by picking up that title. I could have boxed Jake Ball for it, I could have boxed Sterling for it, I could have boxed- do you know what I'm saying? Even when I box for the Southern area, I'm boxing guys 12 and 0, 6 KOs- which has probably got like, as good a record as the two boys boxing for the British now. And I've boxed guys that are up for the Southern area so I could have officially used any of them opponents and won the British and moved on. I didn't- so I kind of want to just finish a chapter and then push on. And I believe I just got on now, go for the gears in my next performances, show everyone how good I am, show what level I believe I belong and go from there.

Just talk about a few things away from yourself Craig. We'll stay at a sort of light-heavyweight theme. Stay domestic level first. We were touching on it when we spoke off-camera a bit before. There seems to be a huge domestic fight brewing between Callum Johnson and Joshua Buatsi. They're sort of looking on a collision course for a very big fight down the line. How do you see that fight playing out if it were to take place and where's that fight won and lost?

It's very good fight, very good fight. Two good operators, both serious operators, both got decent punch power and got big pedigrees from amateurs so it's- stylistically, it's a weird, weird fight. They both do different things very well. It’s who can merge and gel their style better- yes, it's a very good fight. That's a good 50-55. Very good fight.

And also with you sort of working your way up through the governing bodies now, it's an interesting time at light heavyweight. You've got the likes of Bivol, Beterbiev. We don't yet know what Kovalev is going to do. Canelo looks to be going back down. Who do you see is the top dog right now at your weight and why?

I would say Beterbiev. I think Beterbiev, he's a beast of a guy at the moment. He's 15 fights in now, 15 wins 15 KOs. Unified two titles, beating the world champions, you know? He beat the guy who beat Adonis Stevenson and put him in a coma. He went and dropped him three times and I think stopped him, knocked him out in the end. So for me, winning- having two world titles and having the sort of resume he's got at the moment, he'd have to be crowned number one right now.

Now, to talk about all things Matchroom Stable. A lot of your guys as mentioned- a lot of the guys already have fight dates. A lot of them are in fight camp. We'll start with Ted Cheeseman. He's gonna be in there with Sam Eggington, someone who's actually been down in this gym before. By all accounts it looks a great fight on paper. How do you see the fight playing out stylistically?

I think that Ted will be a bit much for him, skill wise. I believe that Ted's very tough, I think Eggington's assets is grounding people down and a bit like bullying them. I'm not sure you'll be able to do that with Ted. I don't think you better do that, Ted's a tough boy, good chin and he's very strong, very fit and he's got skills as well. So I believe that Ted should be a bit much for Eggington.

Now in this gym, you do have access to a lot of top class sparring between yourselves in and around the weights. You got John Ryder, we've seen the Doc in there as well, Felix Cash. Let's start with John Ryder. I just spoke to John. A lot of people felt that he should have been crowned world champion towards the end of last year. How much does that man- deserve a shot at the world title?

I believe that he at least, minimum, deserves a shot at the world title. After that performance he put on, everyone written him off against Callum Smith and he went out and delivered that sort of performance. I think this there's no way you could slide him back down the ladder and put him in a different category. He showed if you- a lot of people obviously feel he won the fight and if you didn't feel like he won the fight for some reason, you can see he definitely belong to that level. So there's no reason why I don't think straight way off the back of that, he should be getting a world title shot.

Felix Cash. It's not easy to find an opponent right now. He's got a pretty good run in Jason Welborn, another good domestic fight that we're gonna see over there on fight camp. Felix looking to push on to bigger and better things, sort of in a similar position yourself. What do you make of that as a fight for him at this stage, coming back- a good opponent after a bit of a left?

I think that's a perfect fight for him. Jason Welborn mixed it up at all sort of levels. We've seen him cause upsets at domestic level against- of Matchroom prospects. You've seen him push on and beat good opposition. You saw him come up short at world level. He just was- it wasn't- he's tough. He came and he gave it a go. He had the heart for it. He just- ability wise, come up short and got hurt later in the fight. So you know that he can mix it. He'll mix it and he'll come and have a go regardless so- At Felix's stage in his career- it will show him where he's at, he goes out there and delivers a good performance and beats Jason Welborn. You know he's ready to push on for bigger things.

And the man we're just speaking to in there, John Docherty. We believe he's gonna be returning as well on fight camp. How much of a threat is that man gonna be going forward? You see him every day in the gym there. You share rounds with him.

He's very good, he's very good. He's improved so much, John Docherty. I remember when he first come down to where he's at now, his improvements. Every camp, every season, each month the boy is improving, he's learning. And I believe that he's very fit, he's strong. I think he's very big for his weight at super middleweight as well. I think he's gonna be a hard man to beat at super middleweight. And I can't see him losing anytime soon, if he does lose. Especially at domestic level. I think he'll comfortably get through domestic level and push on- I think he'll be at British level in no time.

I found it interesting talking to you boys through there about working under Tony and the shock of coming down to the gym first time and and seeing just how rigorous that training process is. Can you tell everybody a little bit about what life is like down here at the gym and the work you guys put in as well because we were speaking about it off-camera there and it very much sounds like when you first come in, it's make or break.

Yes, it's make or break. It's very tough. Training down here people just think it's a label. 'Oh, Matchroom Boxing'. Trust me, it's serious. The work- I've trained at a lot of gyms- got us any gym- any person who's training me, I'm always like- I'm probably the hardest-working fighter in the gym. I come down here and it was a reality check like- I came here and it was just tough. Every boy is just so fit, they're strong, you get pushed every week. If you're not improving, forget it. Because everyone's improving every week. Everyone in every department. So we start in early mornings ‘til later afternoon. Session after session, week after week. And it just gets harder and harder as the weeks go on. So if you look at like everything we've done in terms of our times, everything we've recorded and you look at our improvements from like- from when each one of us started to where we're at now is just dramatic. And we're all getting like, fitter and stronger as fighters. And I believe that's why a lot of the boys from here, it'll be very hard to beat them because when it comes to conditioning and strength and stuff like that, I think we've got that summed up here. And yeah, Matchroom Elite is Matchroom Elite for a reason.

Alright Craig, well, the sun's finally come out just as we're about to conclude the interview so that's a bonus but thank you very much as always for making the time for Boxing Social. Good luck, I'm sure we'll catch when you got some official fight.

Thank you as well.


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