Craig Richards set for boxing return at O2 Arena after two-year hiatus

Crystal Palace’s Craig Richards makes his grand return to boxing this weekend after nearly two years out with an injury.

The British three-time light-heavyweight champion has won 17 of his 21 professional fights, with the most recent ending in a narrow decision loss in May 2022 to Joshua Buatsi, who recently overcame Dan Azeez at Wembley Arena.

Ahead of Saturday’s fight against Boris Crighton, Richards, 33, discussed his love for boxing, the multitude of emotions involved, and how he aims to help today’s youth by introducing them to boxing.

Image credit: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson

He said: “I love the art of boxing, I love to learn.

“I like to push myself, I like to push my boundaries. Everything I do, if it’s not challenging, it doesn’t excite me and boxing is a very challenging sport. 

“Watching myself progressing every day and learning and getting better and getting fitter and stronger, I thrive on that.

“You’ve got so many emotions in one sitting because you’re walking out, people calling your name, it’s an exciting time.

“You’re like: ‘This is great, I’m doing what I love doing’, but then you think: ‘This guy’s about to try and punch me in the face and try to knock me out.'”

Richards lost via unanimous decision in his last fight against Buatsi // Image credit: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson

Richards went on a ten fight winning streak between May 2015 and October 2017, before losing to Frank Buglioni for the British light-heavyweight title.

He has one draw on his record from his fight against Chad Sugden at York Hall.

Richards said: “There’s so many different thought processes in such a short space of time, but it’s only fighters that will understand all the emotions that you go through from the ring walk to when that first bell goes.

“Throughout my career, I’ve had such hard fights with the big names and the big guys, the harder the fight, the more it excites me. 

“That’s just the sort of character I am and I think you’ve got to be a certain character to be in a fighting game like UFC or boxing–you’ve got to have a stronger mentality than the average person because it’s a difficult game.”

Return to the ring

Richards relished the opportunity to get back into the ring, stating the importance of building momentum following the stressful period after his injury.

He said: “I want activity this year.

“It was very stressful, once I got injured, I remember the next show was the AJ v Franklin card and I was meant to be chief support on it. 

“When I went down there as a fan, just to watch the show, I remember sitting there during the time I was meant to be on, just before AJ, it was packed in the 02 and I looked and thought: ‘I’m meant to be walking out now’, it put a negative spin on it for me.”

Eberechi Eze of Crystal Palace joins Richards in a training session. Image credit: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson

The only other defeat Richards has taken in the last six years came one year prior to the Buatsi defeat, when he fought current WBA light-heavyweight champ Dmitry Bivol, who is set to take on unified champion Artur Beterbiev on June 1st in Saudi Arabia.

Richards said: “When I finally stepped to the top level, I knew I was meant to be there.

“I had the feel out rounds with Bivol and realised I was good enough, when I tried to push him at the back end of the fight, I came up half a round and one round short for the world title.

“With the Buatsi fight, it was in the balance and he got it by a round, and the difference was maybe the preparation leading up to the fights, this is another decision when I’ve gone to Shane McGuigan knowing he’s a top, world class coach.

“These are the extra percentages when I get to that top level again, that I can make the difference in, to make sure that I win them world titles.”

Shane McGuigan is an Irish boxing coach and the son of former featherweight world champion Barry McGuigan.

He became Richards’ new boxing trainer in December, 2023.

Supporting today’s youth is vital for Craig Richards

Richards grew up in Penge and Lewisham and has been vocal about how today’s youth perceive the world when it comes to knife crime and gang violence.

He said: “As a young boy without guidance, it’s easy to be led astray off the wrong path. 

“That’s why as I got older and understood life a bit more, it was important for me to get involved with a lot of the youth projects, guiding the young ones for them to understand right from wrong on what they should be doing.

“I don’t think a lot of kids decide to go hang out around the wrong crowd or do the wrong thing because they want to be bad. 

Image credit: Matchroom Boxing/Mark Robinson

“Sometimes it’s boredom, they say the devil makes work for idle hands and if they get given something productive to do, they wouldn’t necessarily do half the stuff these kids do nowadays.

“When you’re boxing it gives you something to do in the evening number one, and two, it also lets out your pent up aggression.

“Whatever is going on in your personal life, you can channel away from it and give them something productive just to focus on, something else to do and switch their head off because when they’re in that gym, they could just think about boxing, they can think about the time now.

“Boxing teaches you discipline, you’ve got coaches telling you what to do and you’ve got to follow a regime, your food, your diet in your training, everything’s about discipline, and I think it reflects in life.”

Richards’ fight takes place on the undercard of the Liam Dillion vs Recce Bellotti fight for the British Super Featherweight titles.

He said: “It’s going to be a tough opponent, a good opponent, it will show me where I’m at and get me set up for the year, God willing that I win.

“[On the future] World Champion, then undisputed world champion and then pushing on to cement my name in history.

You can watch Richards’ comeback live on DAZN this Saturday, with the main event kicking off at approximately 10pm UK time.

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