Akeem Ennis Brown, aka Riiddy Riival, speaks to Danny Flexen about the British and Commonwealth title fight with Philip Bowes and a desire to work with a major promoter like Eddie Hearn
Akeem Ennis Brown, or Riiddy to the majority of people who know him, has been patient. The unbeaten Gloucester super-lightweight was, two years ago, the youngest reigning English champion. He has since defeated Chris Jenkins, who is now the British titlist a weight up, decent Darragh Foley and previously undefeated Bilal Rehman. In the process, Riiddy captured WBC Youth and IBF European straps but, without the backing of a major promoter and employing a rangy, awkward southpaw style, no one was chomping at the bit to afford the talented operator an opportunity at top domestic level. Until Robbie Davies Jr and the British Boxing Board of Control stepped in, the former by relinquishing the Lonsdale Belt and then the latter in nominating Riiddy and Commonwealth ruler Philip Bowes to clash for both championships. Ennis Brown cancelled plans to compete in MTK’s Golden Contract tournament, Bowes’ promoter Mickey Helliet won the purse bids and the pair will clash at York Hall on November 29. You can buy tickets here.
“Even though I’m on the British and Commonwealth now I thought I’d be a lot further ahead,” Ennis Brown tells me. “Life ain’t that simple and as I started racking up more wins, it’s been harder to get fights, especially without a bigger promoter. Signing with MTK was good but I could still add to the team. I do want to link up with Eddie Hearn or someone like that, someone with a lot of clout and influence.
“Of course I want the money but I know if I keep winning the money will come; it’s legacy over money. When the game’s done, I’m old and talking to my grandkids, I want to tell them I done this, done that. I also want to be the first British and Commonwealth champion from my city. Then I can sit back, smile and say, ‘I done it my way.’”
Initially encouraged by older brother Shugz into a form of gloved combat, albeit on the Gloucester streets, Riiddy entered Jon Pitman’s Fight Factory gym aged 14 and never looked back. He has developed into a ticket-seller despite an approach that is not always aesthetically pleasing and, with his fast reactions and quick feet, a man who is exceptionally hard to beat. Having scored just one early victory in 13 wins, 5ft 11in Riiddy has faced doubts however regarding his power.
“I actually like it,” he laughs. “A couple of Bowes fans recently said online, ‘He’s got no power, he can’t punch.’ I hear it all the time, but I hope it makes opponents think they can walk onto shots; then they’ll get a wake-up call, more fool you. Once they get in the ring with me, they catch one and it’ll make you think twice about walking forward.”
Despite a brief 26-6 amateur career – which culminated in a rejection from Team GB – Riiddy has compensated for that lack of experience with a wide variety of top-class sparring. Josh Taylor, Luke Campbell, Lee Selby, Ricky Burns, Martin J Ward, Ohara Davies, Joe Cordina and Jorge Linares have all crossed wits and fists with the ambitious 24-year-old.
“I helped Taylor out for Regis Prograis and Campbell for Vasyl Lomachenko,” Akeem reveals. “There is no other southpaw more awkward than me. Campbell and I have sparred countless rounds, Cordina the same, but I’ve only had a few spars with Taylor. I have a good friendship with Campbell, I learned a lot. When you spar people that good and you push each other, you know you can make it to the top.”
This level of sparring may be crucial against Bowes, a man 11 years his senior and with an additional 10 pro contests under his belt. Riiddy is not sure exactly what his adversary’s strategy will be in east London but is expecting Bowes to bring his trademark determination.
“It depends what Bowes turns up,” says the father of three-year-old Kardelle. Riiddy’s son already trains alongside dad, under the guise of a game. “I think the best Bowes will turn up, it’s his last shot, he’s got to make the most of it. That’s what I want, as it will bring out the best in me. I gotta show up; whatever he brings, I’ll double it. It’ll definitely be a fight of brains, who’s got the best boxing brain; that will of course be me. We are both proud men so we will push each other to the limit.”