Tommy McCarthy takes on Richard Riakporhe for WBA Inter-Continental Cruiserweight title

Tommy McCarthy (right) takes on Richard Riakporhe for the WBA Inter-Continental Cruiserweight title in Peterborough on Saturday night
Andy Watters

TOMMY McCarthy was just seven when his Jamaica-born mother passed away and he was brought from London to live with his dad’s parents in Lenadoon.

With his Afro-Caribbean heritage and London accent, it took time for him to settle into his new surroundings.

“I was the only black fella in the whole of west Belfast, it wasn’t easy,” he says.

Life was tough back then but 20 years on McCarthy is making his way as a cruiserweight prizefighter and, in his second fight this year, he’ll take on Richard Riakporhe for the WBA Inter-Continental Cruiserweight title in Peterborough on Saturday night.

Like McCarthy, 29-year-old Riakporhe has a story to tell. It has resonated with the media and rightly so.

At the age of 15 the Londoner came close to dying when he was stabbed outside a nightclub. He recovered but became a serial offender who was regularly in trouble with police until, with the help of boxing, he was able to turn his life around.

Four years ago he graduated from university with a degree in Marketing, Communications and Advertising and now dedicates himself to becoming a positive role model for young people in his community. He won the WBA Inter-Continental Cruiserweight title after Sam Hyde retired with injury on the undercard of Oleksandr Usyk versus Tony Bellew in Manchester last year.

“He has got a bit of name,” said McCarthy.

“The media seems to have taken to him because of his back story but everybody in boxing has a back story, we could all cry about the upbringing we’ve had, we’ve all had it tough.

“Boxing is a working class sport and must of us are from the poor, working class areas of the cities we’re from. The back story is neither here nor there, this is boxing and I am a better boxer than him across the board.

“Go to anyone and they’ll have these sob stories about growing up and how tough it was but, at the end of the day, it counts for very little in the ring because you’re either good at boxing or you’re not.”

With no amateur achievements to speak of, Riakporhe is now 8-0 as a pro with seven early wins but McCarthy isn’t impressed by his record.

“I haven’t seen anything that I’m worried about,” he says.

“I think he’s limited, he’s like a big novice boxer if you watch him. He has seven knockouts but he hasn’t fought anybody. That last knockout against Sam Hyde wasn’t a knockout because Sam had to be pulled out by his corner because he had a bad injury.

“In his mind and in the media’s he is this big, devastating puncher – he has seven stoppage wins and I have six and I have fought better opposition than him. There’s not much difference in our punch power, I’m a big puncher myself and everybody knows that. I always have been since the amateurs.

“I’m super-confident.

“He has been doing a lot of talking in the media but I haven’t said much because I don’t really need to say much.

“Anything he says has been pretty much nonsense. I know what I can do and it’s just a matter of me going over there to perform.”

Dillian Whyte-managed Riakporhe has sparred with Anthony Joshua in the past and says he is a fan of McCarthy (13-1). However, he feels has already beaten better in Sam Hyde and he is looking ahead to taking on British champion Lawrence Okolie.

The truth is that he was behind on the scorecards when Hyde pulled out of the fight in round eight.

“I’m feeling good going into this fight as I believe Sam Hyde is a better opponent than Tommy McCarthy,” said Riakporhe.

“That’s meant as no disrespect to Tommy, he’s a fighter that I’ve watched a lot of and have admiration for. I remember watching the Commonwealth games back in 2010 and he looked pretty decent then.

“He’s got a good skillset and a solid background, but I believe that this is my time now and the momentum is in my corner. I’ll do anything to win and to keep on winning.

“There’s no way I’m overlooking Tommy as every fight is a huge risk and anything can happen, but I’ve got the bit between my teeth and I’ll be prepared come fight night.”

He’ll need to be prepared because, unless Tony Dunlop-trained McCarthy walks onto one of his right hands, Riakporhe should be second best on Saturday night.

ANGRY Anthony Joshua responded to Jarrell Miller's claims that he is fighting him on behalf of the "underdog" by reminding him he was a "streetfighter" before he was groomed for greatness.

The IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion usually cuts a composed figure amid goading from his opponents but Miller angered him when they met in New York last week and he is yet to rediscover his normal persona.

They again met in London yesterday, and Brooklyn's Miller said: "I've been hearing AJ's too posh, his nose is up here sometimes. For all the underdogs out there who are told they're not good enough; I'm proof that with one or two cheeseburgers and hard work and dedication you can go far."

There has been significant investment in Joshua's career since he turned professional, but he said: "I got banned from the area I was growing up in because I was getting into too much trouble.

"The state of my hands - this isn't from boxing, this is from streetfighting. I've changed my whole lifestyle around.

"All this spirit this boy's got and the s*** he's talking, I'm going to strip it from him. Look at his face - I'm going to reconstruct his face and body on June 1 and I'm looking forward to this challenge.

"I'm going to be a surgeon because I'm going to give him a makeover."

Miller last week insisted he planned to stop the champion inside seven rounds, and he repeated: "I don't need to think; I'll just get it done. You've got to go balls to balls; if I ever doubted myself I would not have made it this far. The game plan's to stop him in seven rounds.

"You know how I feel about AJ, and my backstory and where I come from and where we're going."

Joshua responded: "That's what I live for. You need a dancing partner and Jarrell's a good dancing partner.

"All this spirit this boy's got and the shit he's talking, I'm going to strip it from him. Look at his face - I'm going to reconstruct his face and body on June 1 and I'm looking forward to this challenge. I'm going to be a surgeon because I'm going to give him a makeover.”

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