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boxing

What next for Richard Riakporhe – move up for Lawrence Okolie grudge match at bridgerweight?

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Richard Riakporhe never planned on defeat. But he suffered a painful loss when challenging Chris Billam-Smith for the WBO cruiserweight title on Saturday.

The setback will be all the more difficult for him to process as the loss he never envisaged taking occurred in front of his home fans at Crystal Palace's Selhurst Park stadium.

Billam-Smith brought all his experience to bear to make sure of a clear unanimous decision win, but that was the Londoner's first world championship bout and he will learn from it.

When Riakporhe does return he will have options. He remains a big, physical cruiserweight and is a noted power-puncher.

In fact, Riakporhe is so big he could certainly move up in weight and if he does leave the division, he has a ready-made rival in Hackney's Lawrence Okolie.

The two already have a feud, which includes a past altercation at a film premiere.

Okolie used to hold the WBO cruiserweight title and lost it to Billam-Smith last year. He then moved up to the new 'bridgerweight' division, a weight class at 224lbs that is only recognised by the WBC and the WBA.

Even before boxing Billam-Smith, Riakporhe had a sense that he could outgrow the division.

"There's bridgerweight now," he told Sky Sports when speculating about his future.

"The WBA have bridgerweight and there's the WBC. Okolie's the champion as well, so that's even more fights, and then we've got the heavyweight which is practically the same thing. [Oleksandr] Usyk is pretty much a bridgerweight, [Deontay] Wilder's been a bridgerweight."

Okolie knocked out the WBC's champion at that weight, Lukasz Rozanski, beating him in just one round in the Pole's hometown of Rzeszow to take the belt.

Riakporhe commended that performance. "He did really well and congratulations to him. I was happy for him as well because I heard he'd been through a lot. Even when he was having the fight with Chris Billam-Smith, a lot of people don't know," he said. "A lot of things were going on.

"That's what we want," he added. "I wouldn't want to fight a half-pint Okolie."

Renewing that rivalry, though, was certainly a target for him.

"I would like that," Riakporhe said. "I would really like that. I think that would be great for London. East versus south. The build up would be crazy and a lot of people want to see that fight.

"When Okolie went up, I was looking at the social media comments and everybody was upset. Why? Because they wanted to see me versus Okolie. We can rekindle that."