BY RICHARD CAWLEY
Craig ‘Spider’ Richards can see more than one advantage in being such long betting odds to beat Dmitry Bivol tomorrow night.
The British light-heavyweight title-holder is making a huge step up in class as he challenges the WBA Super world champion at the AO Arena in Manchester.
Bivol won two junior world championships and claimed the WBA interim world title in just his seventh professional bout. But the Russian – being primed for a unification showdown with WBC and IBF king Artur Beterbiev – has not fought since October 2019.
Crystal Palace’s Richards is 10/1 with some bookies to inflict a first defeat on Bivol (17-0).
And he reckons that his pals have profited before when he has been written off.
Asked if his supporters would have a bet, Richards told the South London Press: “They always take advantage. They won thousands of pounds last time, and I’m guessing they are planning to do the same again.
“They always win quite a lot of money on my fights, because I’m always the underdog.
“I was also a massive underdog with the bookies for my other recent fights. I wasn’t expected to win my British title fight. When I won my WBA Continental title against Jake Ball I was a massive underdog as well. This ain’t the first time and I doubt it will be the last time that people write me off.
“Me and Peter [Sims, his trainer] actually asked for this fight – that’s what people don’t understand. It wasn’t something put to us – we put it out there and Eddie [Hearn, head of Matchroom Boxing] delivered.
“We’d been in talks over it for a few months, going back and forth in negotiations. I’m going to grab this opportunity with both hands.
“I feel like everyone I’ve fought was put on a pedestal and after I beat them, everyone discredited them.
“I felt the only way to get the credit is to get someone of the level of Dmitry Bivol, where they can’t discredit him after I win.
“He hasn’t been active. That could play a part but we won’t bank on that. I will be expecting the best version of him. ”
Richards’ only loss was a unanimous points decision to Frank Buglioni when he was a late replacement challenging for the domestic title in 2017.
Since then he has won six of his last seven outings. He drew with Chad Sugden before impressively dispatching Shakan Pitters to claim the British belt in December.
Richards is ranked fifth by the WBA. The fact he is not mandatory challenger means that Bivol’s camp can insert a rematch clause.
“They often have those to ensure they can have another shot back at their titles,” said the South Londoner. “That’s fine by me, I’ll go out and do the job twice.”
Richards has been staying at Sims’ Hertfordshire home for the past few weeks to cut out his commute to the gym in Brentwood.
“He is up in the morning and it is train, eat and sleep,” said Sims, who has been in his corner ever since Richards entered the paid ranks. “It also gives us time to do technical stuff. I’ve got a 16-inch plasma TV, we have watched all Bivol’s fights and made notes together.
“He is like a lot of the European fighters – Oleksandr Usyk and Vasyl Lomachenko – their feet are their defence and attack. He can punch coming in or out, but that can be quite tiring.
“There is not a fantastic variation of punches. Bivol doesn’t throw mad combinations. He is not like a Canelo [Alvarez].
“He is a really good fighter but one of the people who beat him in the amateurs was Callum Smith, who is big, tall and orthodox – like Craig.”
Sims points out that Bivol’s last four fights have all gone the distance and that Richards’ durability had been praised by one of Britain’s rising stars.
“Bivol has got a huge amateur pedigree but he hasn’t had any knockouts in recent bouts and he hasn’t boxed for a year and a half – that was against Lenin Castillo in 2019 and he looked f****** terrible. He dropped him but then couldn’t finish him. It was the same against Jean Pascal
“Lawrence Okolie [WBO world cruiserweight champion] has sparred 10 rounds with Craig and says he has got one of the hardest chins in boxing. He has never been troubled or moved. Lawrence said:
‘I hit him flush and he didn’t even blink’. And that is a big cruiserweight.
“It depends what Bivol brings to the table, how good he is going to be. But we know how good Spider is going to be.
“I think that Spider’s jab is going to be a massive thing.
“Bivol marks up and cuts easy. He has not got the best skin. Spider is going to mark him up badly with the jab in a fight that is probably going to go 12 rounds.
“Our dream result is for Spider to get rid of him. But we’ve trained really hard for a
PICTURES: MARK ROBINSON/MATCHROOM BOXING
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