AFC Wimbledon supporter Lerrone Richards was being guided towards more boxing glory by one of the world’s leading trainers in the sport before the Coronavirus crisis intervened.
Cuban coach Ismael Salas was putting Lerrone through his paces in Las Vegas, as the man who won the British super-middleweight title in December looked to continue his rise towards a crack at world supremacy. Obviously, there has been a big change of plan now with lockdown forcing Lerrone to return to these shores and do his training at home. That hasn’t dimmed his burning desire though to keep progressing through the boxing ranks when the sport resumes.
Lerrone, who joined us as special guest for the 1-0 win against Peterborough in January, also has a future dream that involves Wimbledon and it’s one that many of us would also love to see become reality – a world title fight at Plough Lane!
We caught up with Lerrone for a chat about his career, which received a big lift when he became British Champion in Birmingham last year. That came thanks to a victory that will resonate with Wimbledon supporters as he upset the odds on his opponent’s home patch to earn glory.
Take a look at the full Q&A with Lerrone below.
What was your first early boxing experiences and how did you get involved in the sport?
“Kingston Amateur Boxing Club was the first boxing gym that I went to. That was based at the Cambridge Road Estate. I started boxing at the age of six. Boxing is the only thing that I wanted to do and it is something that became a part of my life. My Dad did a bit of Thai Boxing when he was younger. That is why he introduced me into Boxing. He loved Boxing and the martial arts side of sport, so he got me involved in Boxing for self-defence. He just wanted to keep me active because I was a very energetic child!”
What has been the key moment in your boxing career?
“I think the key moment was winning the British title. I beat an undefeated fighter called Lennox Clarke and I had to do it in Birmingham in his home city. It was a 50/50 fight, but people said I was the underdog going into it because he was the home fighter. It was a bit like going into the Lion’s Den because when I was going into the ring I was getting booed a lot, but it made me more motivated to go and do a job. Every top Champion knows that they have to go out and do a job, no matter what the situation is.”
What was your impressions of AFC Wimbledon as a club when you joined us recently as a special guest?
“I love the club because it feels like a family. I can’t wait until this Coronavirus is over and I can get back to watching a few games. The atmosphere was phenomenal when I attended my last game, I loved it, and it was great for us to get the win. I am still in contact with Ivor a lot, including through social media when we’ve been calling each out over his challenges! The club is a family and a lovely club to be a part of.
“I couldn’t ask for a better club to follow. My dream now, and I keep talking about it, is for me to fight for a version of the world title at Plough Lane. That would be amazing, so I hope that football comes through in the future and I get a chance to fight at Wimbledon’s home. I previously trained at Earlsfield Amateur Boxing Club, which is just around the corner from Plough Lane, so it would be a dream come true for me.”
Have you set a target for becoming World Champion?
“Before the Coronavirus crisis hit I was looking at 2021 and fighting for the world title later in that year, but this has pushed it back a few months, so maybe early in 2022. It would be phenomenal to fight for the world title, but I would be determined to win it as well when I do get the chance.”
How are you coping with lockdown?
“I was in Las Vegas training for a scheduled fight that I was meant to have. I was training with my new coach Ismael Salas. Then I watched all of the news updates and I realised it was time to make my way home. This was probably just a week before lockdown started. Since then, I’ve been at home, but I’m just trying to stay as fit as I can. I’ve been doing running and following a strength and conditioning programme, which my coach had set out for me. I’ve just been trying to stay relatively active and fit, but there’s only so much that you can do during the lockdown, which is frustrating.
“Obviously, you can’t go to the gyms now because they are shut. I’ve got my Dad working with me on pads and I’m doing my running to keep me ticking over. I’m keeping as active as I can, keeping my weight down, and staying as professional as possible in the circumstances.”
To what extent has the Coronavirus crisis interrupted your boxing career?
“I had a fight lined up for April and I had another fight lined up in June, but everything was obviously called off. My fight in April was meant to be defending my British title, but I was also in line to fight for the WBC Silver. We were still looking for an opponent in April, so nothing was pinned down as such, but I knew for the WBC Silver that I was going to be taking on the fighter ranked number one in the world. It would have been a tough fight, but a fight I knew I could win.”
When did you turn professional?
“I turned professional in 2014, but I had two years out of boxing due to managerial situations. I just had to sit out the contract, but I got back into it and started to win titles and achieve more. I’ve been professional on paper for six years, but in theory it has only been three.”
What are the main characteristics required to become a Champion?
“I feel that you have to be patient. When I started I stayed patient and I knew that my time would come, as long as I kept working hard. I knew that my opportunities would come at some point, but at the same time I knew that I had to take my chance with both hands when that did arise.”
You are 27 years of age now, so how long did you have as an amateur?
“I had over 100 fights as an amateur, including representing England and Great Britain, so I did my rounds on the international scene, which was great. I went to the Olympic qualifiers, but I just missed out in 2012, which was unfortunate. Sometimes you need a setback or two, so that it tests you and you come back stronger. I feel that I came through those situations and it made me grow as a person and as a man.”
During the Coronavirus Crisis our Dons Local Action Group have made a big difference in the community. What have you made of the tireless work put in by our volunteers?
“I have heard about the difference that volunteers from our club are making and I seen a few of them outside Tesco’s, just down the road from me. I donated to the cause and it was just so nice to see the Wimbledon colours and scarves. I could see volunteers wearing Wimbledon kit and it’s great that the club and its supporters are doing so much for the community.”
What’s your view on Anthony Joshua taking on Tyron Fury in the future?
“I feel that this would be a good fight, but it would be 50/50. I can’t pick a winner, but it would be a very entertaining fight and a fight that I would love to watch.”
Billy Joe Saunders, who you sparred with in the past, has been mentioned as a potential future opponent for you. Is he someone who you want to fight?
“Boxing is a business and whoever I’m lined up to fight, whether I know them out of the ring or not, I am sure it would make sense that we would fight. I will fight anyone in the world. I feel that, on my day, I will give anyone trouble and win. Let us see what the future holds.”
You are 27 now, so do you think you have your peak years to come as a boxer?
“I have had a few years as a professional now, so I feel that I’m reaching my peak. I feel that the next couple of years are important for me to take advantage of being at my peak and to improve my position.”
Who has inspired you to become a Boxing Champion?
“My Dad (Martin) inspires me. He’s always been there for me, right throughout my whole life. In and out of the ring for what he’s done for me, I have to give all the credit to him With the tough times I’ve been through I like to keep those experiences a secret and hold it close to my heart. Those times are what pushes you forward and motivates you to do better. My Mum and Dad are good parents and I wouldn’t say I had a tough upbringing. There are people who have had a lot tougher upbringings than me. I was a happy child growing up, so I cannot complain about the opportunity I was given in life.”
We will keep you updated in the future on Lerrone's progress, but you can also follow his fortunes by keeping in touch with his Twitter account @Snipertheboss .