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Mikael Lawal Hopes ‘Pleasant Surprise’ Extends to Win Over Viddal Riley

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Fighters are experts at hiding their true feelings. The best manage to keep a poker face during the most stressful and painful of times, and you would be hard-pressed to find a boxer who can make it through fight week without happily lying to everyone around them about how perfect their training camp was.

Still, when Boxing Scene spoke to Mikael Lawal (17-1, 11 KOs) about his upcoming English cruiserweight title fight with Viddal Riley (10-0, 6 KOs), there was no disguising the satisfaction in his voice.

“I’m looking forward to this one,” Lawal said. “I can’t wait. I can’t lie – when I got the call, I was a bit surprised. At the same time, it was a pleasant surprise.”

Lawal understands how the game works. Riley is the exciting new fighter on the verge of breaking into major title contention. For his part, Lawal is the former titlist coming off the back of a disappointing defeat. He knows that Riley’s team sees him as the ideal opponent to help bridge the gap between English and British title levels – but Lawal believes he is being badly underestimated.

“I think they probably are, but I’m not really focused on them,” he said. “That’s not really my job. They might know something I don’t know. Just to make sure, I’ll step in there cautiously and make sure I do what I’ve gotta do when I get in there and outbox him – break him, actually.

“I’m pretty much used to it. It’s been the way right through my career. The way he mentioned my name was almost like I’m a stepping stone to Isaac Chamberlain. If that’s what he thinks and that’s what he believes, then we’ll see on March 31.”

Chamberlain, who took the British title from Lawal last October, was cool, calm and disciplined in carrying out his game plan to perfection. By the midway point of the fight, he had tamed the normally aggressive Lawal and went on to box his way to a comfortable decision victory.

As good as Chamberlain was, it certainly wasn’t the same Mikael Lawal who bludgeoned his way to the British title. The Lonsdale belt had all but slipped from his grasp by the time he staged a late-round rally and began to let his hands go. 

“Things like this happen, man,” Lawal said. “I don’t even wanna get into the personal side of it all, but I’ve been going through some things. I believe I’m getting them under wraps. All I can do is focus on the future. I can’t dwell on the past.

Lawal notes that the Chamberlain fight was his first being in a big camp with his coach, but he’s quick to note that he’s looking ahead rather than backwards.

“Isaac is a good boxer,” he said. “I’m not gonna fault him. But hopefully I can get through this fight and one day get my retribution. I’m just taking one step at a time and not overlooking anybody.”

Riley will be faced with a wounded animal on Sunday. Lawal will be desperate to get his career back on track and prove that the performance against Chamberlain really was an anomaly. By beating Riley, he can also prove that he does possess the boxing ability to track down a clever, skilful fighter. 

An athletic, talented boxer who won numerous national amateur championships as a junior, Riley won the English title by outclassing the previously unbeaten Nathan Quarless last September.

But Riley has also shown the ability to finish a fight. When he does hold his feet, he lets his shots go with intent. Lawal doesn’t believe Riley will take that chance with him, believing his opponent to be aggressive only when it suits him.

“With the right people he is – not with me,” Lawal said of Riley’s eagerness to come forward. “I think he’s gonna be very, very cautious. If he tries to open up, then that’ll be a good day for me. If he tries to box and run, it might be a bit tougher. But I’ll still find a way to catch him.

“I’m just a lot stronger. I’ve got the power, the skill even. I haven’t really even demonstrated my skill, but everybody is gonna see on the night.”

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