Lerrone Richards is the former British and Commonwealth super-middleweight champion. But there are plenty within British boxing who know barely anything about him. Now the 28-year-old has the chance to come out from the shadows and show he is undoubtedly one to watch in 2021.
It’s strange to be talking of a former champion in this way. British and Commonwealth title holders usually receive a good billing and are pushed as future stars. Yet Richards has remained something of the forgotten man. Instead of resting on his laurels, the South Londoner is now looking to force himself into British boxing fans’ consciousness.
The first step on that route was uprooting himself from the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas to the slightly less glitzy and glamorous Rotherham, just outside of Sheffield. Now watching his every move is Dave Coldwell, one of the most respected trainers in the UK.
Richards (14-0, 3 KOs) explained the change in approach, as well as reflecting on his clearcut win over Timo Laine (W8) last December at the SSE Arena, Wembley, where he cruised to victory after a pandemic-hit 2020.
“At the start of 2020, I was out in Las Vegas with Ismael Salas, having parted ways with my previous coach,” Richards told Boxing Social. “It was the same camp as Joe Joyce, when he was originally preparing for the Daniel Dubois fight. Then the pandemic hit and I had to make a few adjustments and my first choice was Dave Coldwell. So I talked to [managers] Sam Jones and Adam Morallee and they took it from there.
“Dave isn’t just a trainer, he’s a teacher and we gelled immediately. I can see a bright future and a very fruitful partnership for both of us. We’ve had eight proper rounds together now, which will be so valuable to add to all the long hours in the gym.
“[Laine] was a negative opponent, but Dave was happy, which I will take as he is a hard man to please. I threw more in that fight than I probably have in any fight during my career and that’s just the beginning. I think I can go to another level and really go through the levels.”
The win over Laine was only Richards’ fourth fight since the end of 2017. His stop-start career seemingly ground to a halt in 2018 before he returned after a 13-month layoff to breeze past Tommy Langford (W12), a former WBO ‘Interim’ world title challenger to claim the Commonwealth and WBO international belts. It was a statement win.
Seven months later, Richards added the vacant British title with a points victory over the undefeated Lennox Clarke. That should have been a career springboard. Richards had lived up to his ‘Sniper’ nickname and set his sights on bigger prizes. Then he, like everyone else, was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic and his momentum was lost.
As boxing started to come back and fights were announced, there was no talk of Richards returning to the ring. Then he arrived in Rotherham with Coldwell and talk began of a potential move across promotional borders from Frank Warren’s camp to the Eddie Hearn stable, due to Coldwell’s links to Sky Sports and the Essex promoter.
The move was confirmed and Richards was handed a quick fight with Laine. As ever, there were critics, but a negative opponent and a slick, back-foot fighter were never going to set the boxing world alight. Now, depending on the ever-evolving Covid-19 situation, Richards is set to strike and prove he should never have been overlooked.
“My wins over Langford and Clarke are good wins that should have got more attention than they did,” said Richards. “It wasn’t that long since Langford was fighting for the interim WBO world title when I was thrown in at the deep end. Then the Clarke fight, I was the champion and went to his backyard and beat him.
“I was called to originally fight Zach Parker for the British, but he vacated which I understand, as he was given a big chance to progress. I would have done the same, so there’s no judgment from me on that. So with all those fights I was involved in or linked with, you’d think I would have had some publicity.
“I was the guy that no one cared about. Still an unknown yet I was the British and Commonwealth champion. It was strange. But now I’m on a big platform and I’ve got a great trainer and people around me who are prepared to back me all the way to the top.
“I’m not going to shy away from any challenge. I’m pushing for them and I’m ready to test myself. I look at Lawrence Okolie and the route he has taken since he turned over and that’s how I want to do it. He’s backed himself to take the hardest fights and come through them. I want to start with the European title, then debut on US soil before fighting for a world title in 2022. That’s the plan and I have full belief in my ability to do it.”
The man he has put in charge of guiding him to achieve those goals is Coldwell. There aren’t many trainers in the UK more knowledgeable than the Rotherham-based trainer, who was in the corner as the ‘Bomber’ Tony Bellew was unleashed and became a major star in the sport.
Bellew never shied away from praising Coldwell and Richards will be hoping he is one of the next stars on his Rotherham production line. Coldwell was already well aware of Richards’ talents and is excited about what could be a prosperous future for the pair.
“Lerrone was always there. But no one knew he was, as he was just an afterthought. He has so much talent and now we’re making some tweaks on him,” Coldwell told Boxing Social. “He can’t be complacent and not coast in fights anymore, so we’re going to get him some gears. I’m so excited to be working with him and guide him to bigger things. After all, he’s already been the British and Commonwealth champion, but his promoter never put his name out there.
“Now he’s got the platform and it’s in his hands to deliver. The eight rounds with Laine were important but as expected he got some criticism. But, if you know him, he’s not going to walk forward aggressively and load up with every shot. He’s slick, but in that fight he threw more left hands than he ever has against a guy who was there to survive. You haven’t seen the best of him.
“He’s ready to go through the levels now. I’d love him to fight in the US this year and one I’ve got my eye on would be a fight with Gabriel Rosado. He’s just had a close fight with Daniel Jacobs and that would be one great introduction to a US audience.”
For Richards though, boxing wasn’t his only source of good news, as he also became a father. As with most new fathers, the motivation picks up and Richards is no different. But it wasn’t a straightforward transition into fatherhood.
Instead of being at home with his newborn, Richards was up in Rotherham, preparing for a fight for the WBC Silver title that never happened. The sacrifice of being away from home for any fighter is not a novel experience. However, the added element of missing the first couple of months of his son’s life was hard for Richards.
But now he feels settled and is confident he has everything in place. He is in a division which has always been a successful feeding ground for British fighters and certain he has the backing to cement his place as a real contender at 168lbs.
“It’s been a crazy year for everyone. Becoming a father to my little boy was incredible and if I said I was [just] motivated to achieve my dreams, I’d be lying. Because I’m very motivated. I’m hungry, no, in fact I’m starving for success.
“It was so hard not being able to be there at the beginning of his life, as I was being messed around, waiting for a date that never came. I pretty much missed the first three months of his life and it was so tough. But that was the sacrifice I made to push me to the top, so I can provide for him.
“I’m in a great division with a great team. The 168lbs division has always been considered a sexy division in boxing and I’m going to make sure that I’m a part of that mix. I want to be up at world level and have people not just saying that Lerrone Richards is up there but he’s going to win it.”
It may not be too long before we see a major title around the waist of the gold and black adorned shorts of Richards. He finally explained the bee mascot that accompanies the majority of his social media posts. The buzz around him is definitely growing.
“I love bees,” said Richards. “We all know the famous Muhammad Ali quote and that has always resonated with me. Boxing is the sweet science after all. Hit and don’t get hit. Plus I love the colours. They look great on me!”