Inside Riley’s incredible rise from KSI’s coach to British boxing star

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Viddal Riley (7-0) steps into the ring for the eighth time as a professional on Saturday night against Watford’s Anees Taj (7-2). The 25-year-old is quickly establishing himself as one of the most exciting prospects in a thriving domestic cruiserweight division.

The Ring Magazine ranks three British fighters in their prestigious 200lb ratings; No 1 Lawrence Okolie, No 6 Richard Riakporhe and No 10 Chris Billam-Smith. Riley is hoping he too can reach those lofty heights and push on for major honours.

Nine years ago, though, things could have been very different. Riley had stopped boxing having fallen out of love with the sport but was inspired to pick it back up again after watching the Rio Olympics in 2016 and hasn’t looked back since.

“I stopped for a bit and wondered whether or not it was for me,” he told Express Sport. “Then I watched the Rio 2016 Olympics and Lawrence Okolie was the representative at 91kg and I was like, ‘Nah man, I know I’m better than this guy’.

“And I should have thought that cause he had only been boxing a short amount of time. He was in McDonald’s one minute, then he won the uni championships, then he was on GB. And I was like, ‘Nah, I’ve been doing this for years. I could have been there.’

“So, I was laying down in my room, being all lazy, a couple snacks, crumbs around my mouth and I said, ‘You know what? Let’s put these snacks down and go back to boxing because I’m going to waste something that’s crazy if I don’t.’ And here we are today.”


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Over the course of a glistening amateur career, Riley won eight national titles, a European Junior silver medal and competed at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China. Towards the end of his amateur run, he began training YouTube star KSI and was presented with a massive opportunity to turn over as a pro under Mayweather Promotions when he accompanied the content creator to the boxing legends gym in Las Vegas.

While at the facility, he impressed Jeff Mayweather and Amer Abdallah during a series of sparring sessions and was subsequently signed by the pair. Riley relocated to the US for two years but felt like something was missing so returned home to London.

There he linked up with his old team at West Ham Amateur Boxing Club under the watchful eye of his father Derrick Riley. “It has definitely been difficult training with my dad at times,” said Viddal. “Boxing is one thing, but my dad always put emphasis on the fact that he’s my father first not just my coach. I think some father-son pairings run into difficulties when they do one or the other too much, but we have a good balance now.”

“The advantage is that he doesn’t just know me with the gloves on,” he added. “He knows who I am as a person and knows what I’m going to do in the ring. Boxing just magnifies your personality, that’s what happens when you’re in the ring, you find out who you truly are, and he knows me and what I’m capable of when I’m put in tough positions.”

With his old team by his side, Riley has gone from strength to strength inside the ring. Meanwhile, life outside of it has also been picking up as well. In a modern age in which self-promotion is king, Riley has mastered the principle and boasts a massive combined social media following of 2.5million.

His popular podcast, RIL & WILLS with good friend Leon Wills has become a leading platform for all things boxing while his own YouTube channel, VIDDAL, pulls in millions of viewers each month. This has allowed Riley to focus on boxing full time and with the Sky Sports engine behind him, the interest in the fledgling stages of his career has been almost unprecedented.

Ahead of his next encounter Riley is, as always, confident of his own abilities but refuses to overlook his foe. “I take him seriously like all my opponents. But once I get your name, that’s it, you are the victim. That’s how I look at it. You are the victim. You are in the way of what I’m trying to do. You are not the pinnacle of where I’m trying to go. And if I don’t defeat you and give you all my energy, I’m not going to get to where I’m trying to go.

“So, when that name gets announced and the camp begins in preparation for that person, you are the world champion, you might as well be the GOAT because that’s how I’m prepping, that’s what my mind is locked in on. On fight night you’ll see the results of what we’ve been putting in at the gym. And once again, people will say, ‘yo, this guy is one of the best in the country’.”

“I want to be a world champion and a good world champion; I don’t want to just hold the belt and then lose it,” he said. “I want people to recognise that when you say Viddal, they think world champion. I don’t want it to be a little wave where people missed it. That’s why I work so hard because I want to solidify it and I won’t stop until that is the case.”

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