For a youngster approaching just their fifth fight, Viddal Riley’s scarcely-believable journey has already taken in the mayhem of YouTuber boxing, a Manny Pacquiao undercard, the Mayweathers and is set to continue alongside Mike Tyson’s comeback.
It quickly becomes clear that Riley, a 23-year-old cruiserweight from London with a 4-0 record, knows exactly how to maximise the eyeballs on him. He speaks of his “brand” and of his “following” and it is clear that Riley is a unique commodity.
His breakthrough came as the trainer for KSI, who beat fellow YouTube influencer Logan Paul last year in a fight that gripped the boxing world, whether through intrigue or disapproval. Riley learned the importance of building himself into a brand from KSI, gained a YouTube following from his involvement, and is set for his fifth pro fight to be on the undercard to Tyson’s exhibition bout with Roy Jones Jr.
Riley attaches his name to successful people in a skilful way that will only benefit a boxing career that began as an eight-time national amateur champion and, he insists, could end with him becoming a world champion.
“I haven’t earned the right to reminisce on achievements so far,” the humble Riley told Sky Sports. “It’s about moving forwards and adding to the list. I have had some crazy achievements for someone of my age. I will let everyone acknowledge it and keep going.
“Keep the brand going and, by the time we get to that [world championship] level, hopefully I will have such a monstrous following. It’s something people haven’t seen before, a UK boxer who can bring that crowd together like Ryan Garcia has.”
Garcia, the US prospect who is set to fight Luke Campbell, has an Instagram following of seven million. By comparison, Riley has over a million YouTube subscribers already (KSI has over 10 million).
That means a million people who aren’t necessarily boxing fans are watching Riley’s fight. He says: “I wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s such a rare position that I’m in.”
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At his core, Riley’s passion is boxing, not social media followings. He is riding the crest of a wave that began when those worlds collided last year.
It has led to the chance to fight on the same show as Tyson, aged 54, against Jones Jr, aged 51, in their comeback exhibition.
“I knew two legends were going at it. But to hear that I would be part of the show? It’s a crazy opportunity, one that I need to make the most of,” Riley said.
“To get an opportunity to get in the ring on such a big stage, I am grateful. I will show my appreciation with a big performance.
“I would have expected both guys to have retired! It wouldn’t have been on my mind as an opportunity that may arise. Life is unpredictable.”
Riley, as a fighter introduced to boxing by his father, understands the dangers of two boxers trading punches in their 50s: “I worry about them. They are not at the age where they should be taking punches.
“My favourite fighter was Roy Jones Jr in his prime and everyone was mesmerised by him but we know there was a downside when he started to receive a lot of KO defeats.
“Tyson has never been knocked out cold and probably didn’t take as much punishment.
“I just want both guys to come out safe and enjoy that they had the experience. But safety first.
“I don’t care about the results, I want both guys safe and to be proud that, at their age, they still manage to attract an audience.”
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Attracting an audience is something Riley has become a master of, having learned from the YouTube generation who are the experts.
He has won his first four pro fights – the first was in Mexico, the third in Dubai, the others in the US. His second fight was on the undercard to Manny Pacquiao’s win over Adrien Broner.
Riley is currently the only Brit signed to Mayweather Promotions and is trained full-time by Jeff Mayweather, who is Floyd’s uncle. He trains and spars with Andrew Tabiti who he calls the best cruiserweight in the world.
“I’ve sparred the elite and I don’t feel out of place,” Riley said. “These people say to me: ‘You can be at this level’.
“I can be a world champion. The key to being a good world champion is not rushing to get there. I believe I can be the best cruiserweight in the world.”
The UK cruiserweight scene is hotter than in the US, Riley admits, and he name-checks Richard Riakporhe, Chris Billam-Smith and Lawrence Okolie as potential future opponents.
“Someone will have something to say, rivals will pop up, someone will become competition,” Riley said.
“Hopefully the UK fight comes when there is an opponent everyone is familiar with.”
Riley will cross paths with the US’s champion of YouTuber boxing, Jake Paul, who is also in action on the Tyson vs Jones Jr undercard.
Jake Paul, whose brother Logan Paul lost to KSI, most recently beat AnEsonGib who was trained by Riley.
The YouTuber boxing phenomenon will be extended by Jake Paul next taking on Nate Robinson, a former NBA basketball player.
“I respect it. My close friend KSI, that’s his arch-nemesis, his rival,” said Riley. “There is no reason for Jake Paul to be considered my rival.
“Jake is cool, he makes dumb decisions but he will learn.
“It’s interesting that he’s on the same card. It shows his following, what having an audience can do. Boxing is entertainment. What he’s doing is bringing a lot of people to be entertained.
“It upsets a lot of people who think it is invalid. But he has worked at something to get there. He has worked for years at his craft, to make sure people know who he is. Now, whatever he dabbles in people will follow.
“I’m disappointed in the opponent. Nate Robinson has zero boxing experience. He was an NBA star, he isn’t anymore. Someone from the past who is so much smaller than Jake. Way too easy.
“Jake wins, first or second-round knockout.
“He needs to fight KSI. That’s his competition. When Jake fights Nate in November, we will hear something from KSI about boxing.”
The most surprising thing Riley says, from his casual dalliances with the YouTuber elite to the Mayweather inner-circle, is that he thinks social media stars should stop boxing.
“It needs to stop. It’s gone too far now,” he says. “The only fight that makes sense is Jake and KSI. Once that happens, end it on a high note before YouTuber boxing gets a bad name.”
He could be a part of that fight as KSI’s trainer but plans to focus on himself more: “I don’t know how much responsibility I want to take from a coaching aspect. I definitely want KSI to work with other coaches – maybe they can get through to him in a way that I couldn’t. But I will never leave him hanging.”
It is noble that Riley thinks that YouTuber boxing should allow itself to peter out.
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