Former world title holder, Tony Bellew knows a thing or two about what it takes to win at the top level.
Though now safely retired, the popular Liverpudlian continues to keep a close eye on the sport, in particular the cruiserweight division in which he was so successful.
It is thriving right now with a wealth of British prospects on the rise: mostly recently, Bournemouth’s Chris Billam-Smith took the WBO belt off Lawrence Okolie with a majority decision win in front of hometown fans.
Billam-Smith is a former opponent of fellow cruiserweight contender Richard Riakporhe, who is now in the midst of a 30-day negotiation period with Australian IBF champion Jai Opetaia.
Bellew, however, has been on Twitter to warn Riakporhe not to move too fast.
“I like Richard and he’s coming on nicely but this maybe a step too far too soon! Opetaia is a very good fighter who can do a lot of things well! I’d of targeted another champion and maybe caught this one in another 12 months? Really brave decision from Richard. Good luck.”
I like Richard and he’s coming on nicely but this maybe a step too far too soon! Opetaia is a very good fighter who can do a lot of things well! I’d of targeted another champion and maybe caught this one in another 12 months? Really brave decision from Richard. 👏👊👏 GL
— Tony Bellew (@TonyBellew) June 15, 2023
33-year-old Riakporhe has not lost in 16 fights and has showcased the power in his fists with wins over the likes of Deion Jumah and Krzysztof Glowacki.
27-year-old Opetaia, meanwhile, hasn’t fought since his impressive victory over Mairis Briedis back in July of 2022. He is widely regarded to be one the best cruiserweights in the world right now, so Riakporhe will have to be on top of his game should the pair lock horns in a fight for later this year.
If he does win, Riakporhe has a good chance of an all-British unification fight with Billam-Smith or Okolie, should the latter trigger a rematch clause later in the year.