Forgotten phenom Lerrone Richards is frothing at the chance to finally show fight fans his latest wares after a self-imposed 30 month sabbatical from the public eye, writes Glynn Evans.
A former nine time national junior titlist and seasoned England rep, the 24 year old super-middle from New Malden has been inactive since April 2014.
But the slick, strong 5ft 11in southpaw has been far from dormant since last witnessed between the ropes, serving as a spar hand to such as George Groves, Billy Joe Saunders, Bradley Skeete and a certain Christopher Eubank Junior.
The fistic grapevine has been awash with tattle about how Richards got the top side of the ex British middleweight king during a heated gym set-to at Eubank’s Hove base last month.
‘I schooled him in his own gym and he knows it. There were witnesses,’ says the remarkably shy and softly spoken ‘Sniper’, recently signed to Queensberry Promotions, who returns to duty on the Nordoff Robbins charity bash at Mayfair’s Hilton Hotel on Monday night.
‘Look, sparring is sparring and we all know there’s an unwritten code that you don’t go public but it’s the way that Chris Junior behaved afterwards and the dismissive way he treated me, that makes me speak.
‘We agreed six rounds and, towards the end of the sixth, I felt a minor twinge in my back. He wanted another two rounds to try to get back some cred cos he knew I’d schooled him but I wasn’t going to risk injury.
‘He then told me I’d not make it with that attitude. Still respectful, I told him that hopefully we’d both make it. But he boasted he was British champion, so he’d already made it! Further unrepeatable words were spoken and we left his gym.’
With a pro ledger limited to just four fights, one could be forgiven for filing Richards off as a raw novice. However, the Carshalton born stock control manager has actually been honing his craft for 18 years now.
He explains: ‘As a young boy I had waaaay too much energy so when I was just six, Dad – who’d done a bit of Thai boxing – took me to the Kingston Amateur Boxing Gym. It was he who gave me the nickname ‘Sniper, The Boss’ when I was about eight.
‘I trained there three nights a week and fell in love with it. I was never really a street fighter, I had a good upbringing but I had a lot of excess energy to burn and loved the self-defence aspect. Though I was too young to have bouts it became obvious from sparring and pads that I was better than the others my age.
‘Aged 11, I moved to the Repton club then, when I was about 20, I finished my amateur career at Earlsfield. I won nine national junior titles and was London senior amateur champion but lost controversially to Felix Cash in the national ABA semis.
‘I beat (future world super-welter challenger) Jimmy Kelly in one of the national finals and lost very controversially by a point to (British and Commonwealth Super-Welter king) Liam Williams in Wales. Liam’s a good fighter and a nice guy. I also boxed plenty of world rated foreign guys.
‘All told, I lost just nine of 91 amateur bouts and boxed for England somewhere between 12 and 15 times but, for some reason still unbeknown to me, I was never selected for a Team GB assessment.
‘That was disappointing because I wanted to go the Olympic Games so badly. England is the country I’m most passionate about but Mum’s Ghanaian and dad’s Jamaican so I got a Ghanaian passport and contacted their federation.
‘I spent six months in Accra, won their national title and attended an Olympic qualifier in Morocco. After beating a South African and Congolese, I lost to the number three in the world from Algeria and my Olympic dream ended.’
A month after his 21st birthday, the Surrey skilster opted to punch for pay and romped to four impressive wins within seven months before things turned sour with his management team.
‘I felt my initial manager didn’t deliver on what he’d promised,’ claims Lerrone.
‘Given my amateur pedigree I expected a TV deal and a promoter. We went to the Board (for arbitration) but the manager wanted a substantial amount to release me when he’d not invested in me so, out of principle, I sat out my contract.
‘It was very hard and I was very upset but I’m a positive person and the support from my family was amazing. Looking back, I probably turned pro too early anyway.’
Though his stats have been stagnant, lightening Lerrone serves notice to expect a hugely improved product when he finally resurfaces in his first six rounder against Croatia’s Gordan Glisic next week,
‘I’d left every one’s minds and become the secret but I constantly kept busy in the gym, sparring world class fighters like George Groves and Billy Joe Saunders. I was Billy Joe’s main sparring partner over in Marbella for his world title win over Andy Lee,’ says Richards.
‘Sparring that kind of class, you can’t get away with any lazy shots cos you get punished ….painfully! George and Bill are thinking fighters so you learn to use your brain and stay patient. In my heart I always thought I was good. After recent experiences, I now know that I’m good.
‘The two years actually passed very quickly and, during that time, I worked with several top coaches before finally settling with Al Smith at the iBox gym in Bromley. He’s given me more gears. During my time away, I’ve certainly improved as a fighter; physically stronger and far smarter.’
And this bright and balanced young man expects to generate a buzz before the ‘bib and tucker’ brigade on Monday. Charity might be the order of the night but one senses opponent Glisic is unlikely to be a beneficiary.
‘Before my break, I kinda went through the motions and was largely reliant on my boxing skill,’ concedes Richards who stopped just one of his first four.
‘Today I run for an hour at 4am before work and now I’m in far better condition. Expect me to let my hands go far more than in the past and to show more spite. I’m a far more explosive package. Expect a controlled, patient but clinical performance. I WILL deliver.
‘I’ve not really thought of titles yet and won’t be calling any names. I just want to stay active and follow the course that Al Smith and the Warrens set out for me. But I believe I’ve the ability to go far and I’m ready for anything.’