Celebrity

Richard Riakporhe talks watches, Cartier and the art of boxing

Boxer Richard Riakporhe tells us how being stabbed led to his life in boxing. As well as his love of jewellery and in particular his watch collection which features Rolex, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe

Photography by Clara Nebeling, Styling (jewellery) by Felix Bischof, Styling (fashion) by Alicia Ellis, Words by Ian Thorley

After his first amateur fight at 19, London-born boxer Richard Riakporhe has gone on to claim a staggering 15 professional wins from 15 bouts, with 11 of those victories delivered by knockout. In December 2019, he became the British cruiserweight champion in a title decider against Derbyshire’s Jack Massey. Earlier this year, he contined his unbeaten run with a second-round knockout win over Fabio Turchi, and is now en route to challenging for the cruiserweight world crown. During the summer, Riakporhe took time out of his intensive training schedule for his Something About Rocks cover shoot.

Gleaming in a spectacular array of jewels – from marvels by De Beers and Van Cleef & Arpels to the finest antique treasures – the 32-year-old discussed his remarkable rise, the art of boxing, watches and the dreamy Cartier pieces on his jewellery wishlist.

Richard Riakporhe for Something About Rocks
Richard Riakporhe wears Hancocks gold ring and gold sautoir curb link chain necklace (Bulgari, 1970s) and Dior trackpants

Great to meet you – tell me about your background and how you got into boxing.

I grew up in Peckham and it was tough growing up where I did – a big council state, ridden with crime. You can name every type of crime; it happened there. And we became very conditioned to it after a while.

Desensitised?

I was desensitised to everything because I just thought it was normal, and I ended up getting stabbed at the age of 15.

You were stabbed?

Yeah. Just hanging around the wrong environment, let’s say. I nearly died, hence the scar on my chest. I’m lucky to be alive. After that, I sat down one day and I weighed everything up and thought, “I need to start thinking about my future. I need to do something positive”, which is what made me think about sports. After I was stabbed, it took me a very long time to recover because they sawed open my sternum and I had to wait for the bones to heal and solidify, which took a good six months. Afterwards, I decided to focus on my future and study. I selected boxing as a sport to compete in because I saw the art in it. Boxing is all about hitting and not getting hit, and I particularly loved the Cuban style. They make it look so easy.

Richard Riakporhe for Something About Rocks
Richard Riakporhe wears Bulgari Serpenti Viper high jewellery brooch and Goldsmith Vintage jacket

Were there any particular boxers that inspired you?

Muhammad Ali has inspired me the most, and one of the reasons why is the fact that when he fought, he stood for something, and no matter what people said – even though at one point everyone was against him and what he stood for – he still stuck with it. I realised that in life, if you don’t stand for something, you can fall for anything. So, that’s an amazing quality to have, and it shows courage and strong will. It’s the type of mindset that says: “I don’t care what other people think. I’m going to go with what I believe is right.” That’s why I help my community. This means a lot to me because I see myself as one of those kids that could’ve gone astray.

I set up the Richard Riakporhe Foundation to support the community. We go into different schools to do talks and try to inspire and influence, in a good way, their [school children] decisions in life. We listen to the kids, have conversations with them, and try to help them in different ways. I love what I do. I love competing, but nothing is more rewarding than helping a youth that could be on the wrong path. They may come back to you in the future and say, “You came to do that talk. What you said there changed my life. Now I do this, now I do that.” I can’t believe it. It makes me want to cry. I can use my platform to help others.

Richard Riakporhe for Something About Rocks
Richard Riakporhe wears Louis Vuitton Tambour Twenty watch and B Blossom studs, Raey trenchcoat, Delos trousers and Russell & Bromley boots

Could you detail your start in boxing?

I entered a gym at 18 and then had my first fight at 19.

Where did you go?

Lynn ABC, in south London. It had that smell of dried sweat and leather bags and gloves, and it was so amazing. And they taught me to form a punch correctly. The fundamentals of boxing are all about doing things right, not just throwing bombs. It’s more about throwing punches correctly and moving your legs. My mind was consumed with finding the perfect jab and the perfect hooks, and moving them and ducking and weaving. Later, people said, “Oh, you’ve got power,” and I didn’t understand that. People wanted to watch me box. I became an attraction like, “There’s old Richard Riakporhe. Watch this guy, he’s going to knock him out. He’s doing a real bad knockout”.

Richard Riakporhe for Something About Rocks
Richard Riakporhe wears Tasaki Danger necklace and Canali knitted polo

What did you study at college?

Government and politics, so once I got to that stage, I thought, “You know, this is hard, being able to manage and organise your time to go to the gym, train and box, and also study”. And one thing had to get dropped, to an extent, and that was boxing, so I couldn’t go to the Olympics. I sacrificed that just to study. But when I graduated, that’s when I thought, “Okay, bang. I’m going to pursue my dream to be a boxer,” and that’s when I turned professional a year after I graduated, which was in 2016. Here we are now, 15 fights later. I was the British champion and the WBA intercontinental champion. Now we’re on the verge of fighting for a world title.

You fight at cruiserweight?

I’m number two in the IBF rankings and number seven in The Ring magazine. I’m pretty much the mandatory opponent in the IBF.

Richard Riakporhe for Something About Rocks
Richard Riakporhe wears Boucheron Flèche du Temps earring (worn as brooch), Hancocks gold ring, Anderson & Sheppard coat and Sunspel vest

Let’s talk about jewels and watches, because I know you like your timpieces. Have you got a watch collection?

I’ve got a few pieces. I remember my first watch: a TechnoMarine. In secondary school. I had my mum give me a bit of money to help buy it [laughing] – I had to beg her.

This has diamonds. This is an expensive watch.

Mmm, yeah.

And why did you like that?

It was flashy. And this one as well – this is the Aqua Master. We were all obsessed with these watches at school.

The brand is called Aqua Master?

It’s old school. This was really popular in London, in, let’s say, 2002 or 2003. So, this is one of the first watches I ever had. After that, I became quite obsessed with Hublot, then I moved on to Rolexes and then older Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe pieces. We were just on the internet, studying watches, learning how it works. My dream watches are the Rolex Cosmograph Daytona in steel and a Patek Philippe Aquanaut in stainless steel. I’ve actually got a GMT-Master II.

Oh, GMT-Master II. That’s the Pepsi dial.

The Root Beer, actually. That type of dial. Beautiful watch there. What else? I love the Patek Nautilus with the blue face – the blueface with that rose gold, man. That’s one of my dream watches.

Richard Riakporhe for Something About Rocks
Richard Riakporhe wears De Beers Optical Wonder high jewellery necklace (The Alchemist of Light collection), DB Classic Eternity Line necklace and Clea studs, Raey hoodie and jeans and Sunspel boxers

So what is it about watches that you particularly like?

I feel like it’s a sign of hard work. I always thought I needed something to just kind of treat myself to, so that I can have it as a memory of a tough camp, the hard work and winning a fight. It’s a reminder that anything is possible. Every time I fight, I always try to get a new watch.

Every time?

Yeah, every single time I fight. There are other fighters that do that as well. Like, I’m talking about after my fight on a Saturday, I’m in the stores on Monday.

Richard Riakporhe for Something About Rocks
Richard Riakporhe wears Van Cleef & Arpels Sneffels clip, John Smedley T-shirt and Anderson & Sheppard jacket

But you can’t get half these watches now, though – there are waiting lists.

It wasn’t like that before. You could go and buy it, but obviously with the limitations to production because of Covid and stuff, it’s made it a bit more difficult. But I don’t mind it, I like pieces that are hard to get.

So what are the top three that you have?

The Rolex Submariner Date with the green dial. Obviously the Root Beer. And then I had another one, but I had to let that go. That was the stainless-steel Daytona. What I’m trying to get at now is the Daytona “Panda”.

And do you like jewellery as well? Or not so much?

I was actually looking at a Cartier piece – the Juste un Clou. The Love bracelet as well. I like a lot of Cartier pieces.
I do love rings and bracelets.

Richard Riakporhe for Something About Rocks
Richard Riakporhe wears Cartier high jewellery necklace and vintage T-shirt

Do you wear a lot of jewellery?

Bracelets and stuff like that. I used to wear a lot, but then I stopped. I used to have a lot of chains, but I felt it was a bit too loud, because it attracted negative attention growing up in that environment. Now I can wear all the things I ever wanted to, without, you know, looking over my shoulder. I’ve been given a gift from a jewellery brand called Cernucci: this chain and pendant has a palm tree. To me, it signifies paradise. I love going on holidays. I feel that even when I’m going through a hard camp or hard session, on the other side of that is paradise. For me, jewellery is a sign of success and hard work.

Grooming Joann Gowland, Jewellery assistant Joshua Hendren and Fashion assistant Eliza Cichowicz

Like this? Karla-Simone Spence on jewels, acting and The Confessions of Frannie Langton

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