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Craig Richards v Willie Hutchinson: The Essence of ‘5 vs 5’

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Some of boxing’s biggest names and brightest hopes were in London on Monday as the fights which will make up the eagerly awaited Queensberry vs. Matchroom ‘5 vs 5’ tournament were officially announced. 

Buzz immediately started about who would win the heavyweight shootout between Deontay Wilder and Zhilei Zhang. Will Hamzah Sheeraz or ‘Ammo’ Williams announce themselves as the next middleweight hope? Can Nick Ball unseat WBA featherweight champion, Ray Ford, and has Daniel Dubois got what it takes to beat the excellent Croatian Filip Hrgovic?

For those who have spent years following – and being frustrated by – the conflict between Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn, it is the light heavyweight clash between Queensberry’s Willie Hutchinson, 17-1 (13 KOs), and Matchroom’s Craig Richards, 18-3-1 (11 KOs), which truly embodies the rivalry between the promoters.

The fight is the only all British clash on the show and the type of fight which boxing politics has prevented from happening for years. Up and down the weight divisions, both sides of the promotional cold war have been hurt by their own stubbornness as fighter after fighter has tried to jump the chasm to world class without accumulating the experience and confidence which comes from winning a high stakes domestic fight. 

Hutchinson vs. Richards is a rock solid clash which will decide which promotional company has a fighter capable of moving onwards and upwards.

Although Richards’ name has been linked to the show for some time, Hutchinson’s inclusion only became a possibility after he stopped Martin Houben in two rounds last month. 

“There was a few names. I think they actually went through them one by one. If he didn’t do it, then it was him. Then they weren’t sure if he was going to be good enough so there were lots of mixes and changes for so many different reasons but eventually – it was only like a couple of weeks ago – I heard it was Willy Hutchinson,” Richards told IFL. “I was just like, ‘Look, whoever it is, it is. I don’t really care who’s on the other side of the ring. I’m going to go and do my job.’ That’s who it ended up being and so be it.”

Richards has been boxing on Matchroom shows for his entire career, starting his professional journey on a low profile Thursday night bill back in 2015. 

The South Londoner has been given big opportunities before – he lost to Frank Buglioni on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title defence against Carlos Takam at the Millennium Stadium in 2017 and has also dropped competitive decisions to WBA champion, Dmitrii Bivol, and Joshua Buatsi – but Richards has continually improved, worked hard and has earned his opportunity to represent Matchroom on such a grand stage. 

“When I first stepped up to light heavyweight there were question marks on my name of how good I would be at light heavyweight and there was six of us at Matchroom at the time,” he remembered. “It was survival of the fittest and we knew that a few of us had to go; that’s when I had the box off with Jake Ball [Richards stopped Ball back in 2019]. 

“The six who actually were there, none of them are here no more. I’m the last one standing and I’m picked as the No. 1 to go and fight in ‘5 vs. 5’ as the light heavyweight so I’ve come a long way.”

Hutchinson is a former European junior and World youth amateur champion who has racked up four successive stoppage victories since moving up to 175lbs after a shock defeat to Lennox Clarke at super middleweight. Richards – who now trains under Shane McGuigan – has competed at a much higher level professionally, pushing both Bivol and Buatsi close. He has no doubt about what will happen when the pair meet.

“A Craig Richards win. If I see if I see the stoppage, you know me I’m going for it,” he said. “It’s a new Craig Richards, it’s different opposition now and I want to show and display what I’ve been working on.”

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