By Richard Hubbard
With a pedigree consisting of 90 amateur fights – with a 90 per cent win ratio – and nine national titles, Lerrone Richards knows it is time to start making some noise now that he is about to reboot his career in the paid ranks.
Not that banging his own drum comes naturally to the softly spoken and reserved 24-year-old, who is probably much more content to let his punches do the talking. However, someone with such a stellar amateur background would normally enter the pro game to a fanfare. The quiet man did it on the quiet and almost slipped under the radar with his low key approach.
Not that it was all of his own doing though.
Now he wants people to sit up and take notice and has aligned himself with one of the most respected trainers in the game and a Hall of Fame promoter to help fight his corner.
Richards turned over in September 2013 and is now unbeaten in four, having last stepped in the ring for real in April of 2014. He has since been sitting tight awaiting his release from management and trainer ties that he believes was not serving his purpose.
He didn’t sit idly by while he was biding his time and continued to learn the ropes of his trade by becoming an elite sparring partner for the likes of Billy Joe Saunders and George Groves.
Sparring bulletins were particularly favourable, so much so that not too many accept an invitation for a move about in the ring with him now he is back firing on all cylinders and preparing for his first contest of a promotional agreement with Frank Warren that will see him perform on Park Lane.
Richards is set to appear at the Hilton Hotel, Mayfair on a dinner show to raise funds for the music charity Nordoff Robins on October 24.
“Being signed with Frank Warren I know I will be pushed in the right direction,” he reasoned. “With a good team you can go far in your career and I believe I am with the best team. I can look towards the future now, push on and achieve what I believe I can achieve, which is to become a world champion.
“I was initially with another coach and manager and we didn’t get along. For the first year it was alright but then we parted ways. For a period of time I was waiting for my contract with him to expire and was looking for a new coach.
“During this time I went to Marbella to spar with Billy Joe Saunders for his world title fight with Andy Lee and I also worked with George Groves. So I have been sparring with the best in the world, ticking over, staying in shape and keeping dedicated to my craft.”
Richards’ ring schooling is now carried out under the tutelage of Alan Smith at the thriving iBox Gym in Bromley – also home to Queenberry fighters Bradley Skeete, Lewis Pettitt, Danny Carr and Darryll Williams.
“I’ve been learning my craft and learning off the best. I am good friends with Bradley, having known him on the amateur circuit for a very long time when he boxed for Earlsfield, so I spoke to him on the phone and asked if it would be alright to come down and train with Al.
“I trained with him for two weeks and we gelled, he has got so much knowledge of the game and he is so passionate. I decided to join up with him.”
The New Malden-based super middle now believes he has a support structure in place that will propel him towards punching his weight at the highest level and getting the recognition his efforts deserve.
He is not longer willing to accept marginalised and overlooked, like in the amateurs, when those he has previously overcome had doors held open for them.
“Do you know what, for my whole amateur career, it was like I was pushed to the side. I was ignored and no-one really wanted to pay attention.
“At one time it was upsetting, I was doing all this and winning nine national titles and I was thinking ‘where am I going to go from here? What can I do?’
“I won eight national titles in this country and didn’t get one GB assessment. I don’t want to mention names, but I was seeing guys I have beaten being on the GB squad. It’s not fair, but it only makes you hungry.
“I know people use the word hungry a lot, but I am not hungry, I am starving!
“Going back to people not knowing me, a lot of boxers know me, the middles and super middles all know me from the amateurs, but they say they don’t and they are fooling themselves.
“Nobody wants to spar me and they are all making excuses and all sorts. The good thing about it is, I am with a promoter now in Frank Warren, so when it comes to fights they can’t run when I get myself into mandatory position for the belts that I want. They will have to vacate, or fight!”
Richard’s six-week Marbella retreat with Saunders ahead of his December duel with Lee provided a timely boost to his flagging morale. He earned rave reviews from the new champion and willing trainers were no longer thin on the ground.
“It did because until then I was quite quiet. People knew about me, but I was very quiet and it was like I wasn’t there to be quite honest.
“When I got a message from Mark and Jimmy Tibbs asking me to come down to West Ham and they offered me the sparring with Billy Joe, I took it with both hands.
“Mark knew about me from around the circuit and I had sparred a couple of his fighters at the time, like Frank Buglioni and Tom Baker, so he knew about me. But with me having been out for some time, when I went into the gym Jimmy put me on the pads.
“He said ‘we’ll take you’ and they did. It was a great experience, the whole environment. You learn so much and I now understand what a camp is about.
“I was living with Bill in the villa, doing the runs with him in the mornings, doing everything. Bill is a good lad and I learned a lot from him, times when we would sit down and he would give me advice on certain things. He is a nice man.
“I had to replicate certain things, especially Andy Lee’s hook, but I also included my own things too. You can see from the result that it was one of Bill’s best performances to date.
“I feel like I have come on leaps and bounds since then as well.”
He now needs to focus on getting himself shipshape for his October date and making up for lost time, although he admits it is more like starting all over again.
“I can’t wait, I can’t wait to showcase my skills and show everyone what I am all about. It is always good to put on a show for charity because it means you are giving and I am grateful to Frank for putting me on.
“Do you know what, it feels like I am making my debut. I am doing my first six rounder and, after four fights I will be looking to fight for the Southern Area or something like that.
“I wasn’t promoted by anybody before, I just jumped on shows. I don’t want to name names, but the man who was training and managing me didn’t really have a clue what he was doing, putting me on small hall shows where I wasn’t getting paid any money at all.
“With my amateur pedigree I expected so much more. I can take some positives and some negatives from it, there is nothing wrong with starting from the bottom.
“Now I just want to keep busy and active and will do whatever Frank or Francis Warren want me to do in terms of titles and stuff. I want to keep learning, stay busy and get my repertoire out in that ring.
“I am a southpaw, awkward, old school sort of boxer, but I am explosive and I’ve got angles! I bring a lot of tricks to the table and I know that people will enjoy watching me. I am a pure boxer, but I can punch and if I hit you and hurt you, I will take you out.”
It is not just in the ring where he could be described as old school. Outside of boxing and his other profession as a stock control manager for Tesco, which take up most of his waking hours, the articulate Richards – who has A-Levels and a diploma in sports science in his locker – particular enjoys marking his own card down the Tooting Broadway.
“I am a stock controller for Tescos, managing stock and making sure the correct deliveries go to the stores. It is mentally draining, but it is something that I enjoy.
“I do morning shifts, 6-3, and after that I head straight to the gym. I usually do a run in the morning around 4am and then get ready for work. That is my life.
“I like bowling and bingo – I love a bit of bingo! I sit there with my dabber, but I have never won anything and it is just the fun of doing it. I just get the book and do one card at a time,” added Richards, who suspects Gala Bingo in Tooting might not be a fertile breeding ground for a new fanbase and prospective ticket sales.
“I could do – it might give them a heart attack though!”
Unlike the first nine numbers on his bingo card, Richards isn’t on his own anymore with his new trainer and promoter firmly on board. He now has a full house!