Viddal Riley is set to fight in the UK for the first time as a professional later this month on the undercard of the blockbuster bout between Amir Khan and Kell Brook, and the highly-rated cruiserweight prospect insists eyebrows will be raised upon the announcement of his opponent.
The Hackney fighter, 4-0, has fought in Mexico, Saudi Arabia and twice in the US since turning professional in 2018, signing with Mayweather Promotions shortly after doing so. But after nearly two years out of the ring, he now returns to the country where he proved so successful as an amateur.
He does so having left Mayweather Promotions for the new boys in town, Boxxer, who are showing the world they mean business with a thrilling start to their 2022 schedule. They’ve already put on an enticing grudge match between Chris Eubank Jr and Liam Williams, and there’s a certain Josh Taylor to follow the Khan-Brook showdown on February 19.
Riley now has the opportunity to step into the spotlight and make some noise on this side of the pond. No opponent has yet been officially confirmed but an announcement is expected later this week, and the 24-year-old promises it will exceed expectation.
Viddal Riley (right) insists the announcement of his impending opponent is set to cause a stir
Riley, 24, will fight on the undercard of Amir Khan (left) vs Kell Brook (right) on February 19
‘It’s an opponent many will be surprised I’ve chosen,’ Riley told Sportsmail. ‘People would maybe expect me to have an easier touch after being out the ring for a couple years.
‘They might expect to see me against a lesser opponent. But I saw the guy, I didn’t look at the numbers, his record or his history, just how he boxes.
‘Straight away I felt like I can beat him, so I don’t see why I should hold myself back if I’ve got the ability to get in there with high level opponents, even after a two-year hiatus. I’m here to challenge myself.’
He continued: ‘I can’t wait for it to be announced… people won’t be expecting to hear this level of opponent, so I’m excited to let the people know.’
Riley is targeting a transformative year ahead. A combination of injuries and the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic have afforded the cruiserweight a frustratingly little amount of in-ring time since turning over into the pro ranks, but all the while his online presence has continued to grow.
As has the influence of social media stars in boxing, with Jake Paul and his brother Logan making a significant splash. Jake is now 5-0 as a professional and is alongside Eddie Hearn promoting the biggest female boxing fight in history between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano. Logan last year shared the ring with Floyd Mayweather.
Riley has rather accidentally found himself immersed into that world, one which was largely an unknown quantity before he started training AnEsonGib and, more notably, KSI. He now has millions of followers spread across his channels, and has also got involved in punditry work for Sky Sports.
Riley shot to fame while training YouTuber KSI for his bouts against Joe Weller and Logan Paul
He signed with Mayweather Promotions in the US following a trip to Las Vegas with KSI
The cruiserweight has left Mayweather Promotions and signed a multi-fight deal with Boxxer
But an important distinction the boxer is keen to make is that inside the ring, he’s only ever been a traditional fighter. He first walked into a boxing gym aged six, represented Team GB at the 2014 Youth Olympics, won numerous national titles and holds wins over Daniel Dubois and Chris Billam-Smith in the amateurs.
In fact, prior to being snapped up by Mayweather promotions, a decision they made after Riley impressed while sparring Andrew Tabiti, now an 18-1 cruiserweight, he wasn’t even contemplating turning pro until 2021 or 2022, instead fighting for a place to represent Team GB at Tokyo 2020.
Now, having returned to the West Ham Boxing Club, where he spent 10 years as an amateur, Riley – currently trained by his father Derrick – aims to showcase his ability in the ring.
‘I’m looking to be active this year,’ he said. ‘I’m looking to get people to respect me as a professional fighter, not just a personality or as someone who knows the game from an analytical view, someone who they have to respect because of what I do with my own hands.
‘This year is about getting that reputation solidified and the following year will be about knocking some people off the pegs who currently sit there.
‘I feel good,’ he continued. ‘I feel like a large part of how I feel physically and mentally is down to my team. I’ve got a team that listen to me; I work well with them and that allows me to perform and recover better.
‘I’ve had some good camps as a professional. I can’t take anything away from training with world champions in Vegas, that was a crazy experience. But when it comes to how I feel mentally and physically, this is the best I’ve felt. I’m ready to perform.’
Riley made his US debut against Mitchell Spangler in 2019, but he’s yet to fight in the UK as a professional
The cruiserweight has claimed two stoppage wins in his first four outings as a professional
With a high-level opponent to come, Riley has sought help from a number of high-level sparring partners throughout camp.
‘Sparring has gone really well,’ he said. ‘I’ve got some rounds in with Dan Azeez, the British light-heavyweight champion.
‘I did some rounds today with Denzel Bentley, former British and Commonwealth middleweight champion. And also Ellis Zorro as well, a 10-0 cruiserweight who’s looking to make some moves this year.
‘When I’m in there with any of these guys I feel more than comfortable. I know that they level they’ve achieved I can reach as well.’
At the forefront of the cruiserweight division is fellow Brit Lawrence Okolie, 29, who won the WBO world title in just his 16th bout and is now on a mission to unify before stepping up into heavyweight.
Riley refuses to be drawn into comparison but insists if his team believe a similar trajectory is possible then he will follow suit. He also asserts that it’s not a race to the top, instead focusing on the ideal path that will allow him to stay there.
At the top of the division is Lawrence Okolie, who won his WBO title after just 16 fights
Riley insists he won’t draw comparisons to anyone but assures his level of opposition will swiftly increase
‘If my team think that in 12 fights I can be world champion then so be it,’ he explained. ‘If they think it will take 18 fights then so be it.
‘One thing that I can definitely say is that every fight the opponent will get better and better. Once you see the opponent that I have scheduled for February 19, that will give a clearer picture of what I’m trying to achieve.
‘I’m already picking opponents ahead of what other people were doing in their fifth fight. It’s all about picking the fighters that will help me get to world-level and maintain it.
‘I don’t want to get there by accident or by avoiding anyone. I want to know that when I’m world level I belong there.
‘Anyone at British level I’ll have already defeated, anyone at European level I can defeat. It’s not about finding a loophole to get to the top.’
On February 19, Riley will resume that journey to the top, remarkably on the same card as two fighter he’s watched so extensively growing up.
‘Khan and Brook are fighters I’ve watched on the come up myself,’ he explained. ‘They have a significant amount of years on me, so in 2004, for example, when I’m just getting into the gym, Amir Khan’s winning an Olympic silver medal.
‘I’ve watched Kell Brook from when he was even fighting Kevin McIntyre for the British title. I didn’t ever picture I’d be on the same show as them. It’s funny how life works, I’m grateful.
‘They better put on a show, because if not I’ll steal it!’
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