AROUND a year after the fight was first mooted, Shakan Pitters and Craig “Spider” Richards finally meet this weekend.
Channel 5 televise from Redditch as Birmingham’s Pitters makes the first defence of the British light-heavyweight championship he won by unanimously outpointing Chad Sugden in August. Challenger Richards risks his No. 8 ranking with the WBA. Pitters-Richards was originally set to go ahead at the York Hall on December 19 last year. Terms couldn’t be agreed and Pitters pulled out, so Richards took an eight-rounder with Sugden and was held to a draw.
That left Sugden well-placed to step in after Richards was forced out of fighting Pitters for the vacant British title in March through illness. That eventually went ahead in August and the 6ft 6ins Pitters was always in control against the former kickboxer from Newark, winning by scores of 119-110 and 118-111 (twice).
That fight was in August, while it’s 12 months since Richards last fought and that could be significant. Using common opponent Sugden as a guide, Pitters wins comfortably this weekend. He has a convincing win over an opponent Richards has drawn with. Broadcasters Sky did have Richards beating Sugden even though he says he was undermotivated for that eight-rounder having prepared to fight for the British title. For the 30-year-old from Crystal Palace, this is his second shot at the British championship.
In October, 2017, he came in at a few days’ notice to challenge Frank Buglioni on the Anthony Joshua-Carlos Takam undercard in Cardiff after Callum Johnson withdrew.
That was only Richards’ 11th fight, he had boxed seven days earlier and he was making a sizeable jump up in class. Though beaten on points, Richards emerged with a lot of credit.
He spent most of the 36 minutes under pressure, but until the midway point, his slick defensive skills and sharp counters kept him in the fight.
Buglioni pulled away in the second half and though he took some clean shots in the closing rounds, Richards never looked like going down – and he kept firing back.
He’s unbeaten in six since (one draw). That includes a stoppage of a Guildford’s vulnerable Jake Ball and a 12-round points win over Andre Sterling in a British-title eliminator. The Sterling fight was personal, a matter of South London pride, and was far from straightforward for Richards. He had Sterling on the floor late in the sixth, but the fight looked to be up for grabs going into the last few rounds. The pace dropping in those closing rounds suited Richards and he pulled away to win by margins of five, six and three points. Buglioni beat him by maintaining a pace Richards couldn’t stay with over the 12 rounds.
At 6ft 6ins tall, Pitters presents a different set of problems. Richards has got to find a way to either get past or deal with the champion’s jab because that’s the punch that wins him fights. Though Richards isn’t known as an inside fighter, against Ball and Sterling he did show he is effective at countering off the front foot and that’s a skill that could serve him well on Saturday night. Box Rec lists Richards as 6ft 1ins, but looking at photos of him and Pitters together, he looks taller.
Richards says the champion has been beating “short guys with slow feet” and that he’s a different proposition. Pitters has taken left hooks when he’s engaged. That was the shot that gave Sugden his rare successes and also Scunthorpe’s Dec Spelman in a hard 10-rounder. Richards has called Pitters “boring” and says that to entertain the fans, he should stand and trade. That would suit the challenger, you would think.
The line from the Eastside gym is that Pitters punches harder than his record suggests. He only has four stoppages on his 14-0 record and that, says Counihan, is because early in his career, Pitters was boxing up at 14st 4lbs. Also, he doesn’t look to be a fighter who’s quick to go through the gears. On the way up, his corner could be heard pleading with Pitters: “Go through the gears” and when he had Sugden hurt in the 11th, he was slow to react.
The Pitters mindset is to hit without getting hit and his reasoning seems to be that if he can win fights without taking risks, why would he give his opponents openings?
Richards is a sharp counter puncher if Pitters leaves gaps, but our guess is the champion will keep it long and win on points.
The Verdict An intriguing British light-heavyweight title fight.