‘Spider’ blows away the cobwebs – Craig Richards happy to end 21-month ring exile with victory over Boris Crighton


Craig ‘Spider’ Richards blew away the cobwebs of 21 months out of the ring with a seventh-round stoppage of Boris Crighton on Saturday night.

The Crystal Palace light-heavyweight ripped a ligament in his hand during a sparring session and had not fought since a narrow unanimous points decision defeat to Croydon’s Joshua Buatsi in May 2022.

Richards, 33, has described the road back as “torrid”.

“I was meant to be chief support on the AJ (Anthony Joshua) fight against Jermaine Franklin in April and I ripped it six weeks before that,” he told the South London Press.

“I was sparring Jordan Thompson and I went to go to his body and his elbow went between my hand and thumb.

“I saw a couple of doctors who said I might not need surgery if I rehabbed it for a while. I didn’t want to open the hand up, because I thought further injuries may come with that in other areas. I went the long haul to get it all sorted.

“I got there in the end but even when the hand recovers it is fragile, so I had to rebuild the whole of it – do a lot of physio and rehab – before I could start punching properly again.

“I didn’t want to get back into it and injure it straight away.”

“It’s horrible. You just don’t plan to not be in the ring for that long period of time. I had a good team around me – Tony Sims (head coach of Matchroom Boxing) helped me through a lot of it and the boys at the gym. Then I had the cross over where I ended up going to Shane McGuigan and he really got me back on track.

“It was hard but I stayed focused and in the gym the whole time.”

McGuigan, the son of Irish ring legend Barry, also trains Catford’s IBF world super-bantamweight champion Ellie Scotney.

“I just felt I was getting a bit complacent at my old gym,” said Richards. “I was doing the same things. I felt like I needed a new spark in my career.

“I felt if I made the change I need to go to a world-class coach who has been there and done it. Shane is one of the UK coaches who has produced the most world champions. I thought he would be the guy to take me to the next level.”

Dan Azeez, outpointed widely by Buatsi earlier this month, has talked about facing Richards next.

But the Lewisham boxer no longer holds any belts. He relinquished the European title and then lost the British strap to Buatsi – although the real prize was that it was billed as a final eliminator for the WBA world title.

Artur Beterbiev and Dmitri Bivol, who outpointed Richards in 2021, hold all the major belts and are due to meet early in the summer with both holding rematch clauses.

It makes it highly unlikely that either man will be available until 2025.

“I want to aim back to world title level,” said Richards. “It depends on the route I’ve got to go to get there, but I need to beat one of the top guys.

“I listen to my team and see what the best option is. They make the decisions. I’ve just got to stay in the gym and stay ready.

“I watched the Buatsi-Azeez fight and, of course, I want to aim towards fighting the winner more than the loser. I’m trying to get the top guys rather than the guys behind them.

“I’m one step at a time. I don’t overthink it or look too far down the line about when a chance could come.

“It’s kind of how the heavyweight division is with (Oleksandr) Usyk and (Tyson) Fury. They are unifying and so are Bivol and Beterbiev – it’s all the same. You have got to stay ready because you never know when the belts are going to get vacated or mandatories get applied on to them.”

Glaswegian Crighton suffered a fifth defeat in 17 bouts but only a second inside the distance.

He was down once in the seventh before referee Howard Foster waved the contest over.

Crighton had previously gone the distance with former Commonwealth champion Lyndon Arthur.

“It was an okay performance – I’d grade it six or seven out of 10,” said Richards. “I just took my time, broke him down systematically and I wanted to do something none of the others could do.

“Arthur fought him on a couple of days’ notice and he hurt Arthur twice in that fight. I wanted to show my levels that even coming back after 21 months I could go in there, dominate and get the knockout – even if I’m not at my best and I’m ring rusty.

“My time out makes me appreciate boxing even more. If you had two weeks without food you appreciate that next meal a lot more – it’s the same way with boxing.”


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