Viddal Riley opens up on ‘very difficult’ upbringing, ‘dealing with loneliness after making hard sacrifices’ and his relationship with KSI before sharing his opinion on Tottenham ahead of Mikael Lawal fight

Viddal Riley will be stepping through the ropes at the O2 Arena on Sunday night, where he’ll be basking in the glow of the lights and the gaze of the cameras, bringing to his childhood dream to life.

But, it’s not always been glitz and glam for the 26-year-old. He grew up in a ‘difficult environment’, lived under the watchful eye of his strict parents and thought about walking away from the sport due to financial restraints.

Speaking ahead of his fight with Mikael Lawal on Sunday night, Riley told Mail Sport: ‘Tottenham was a very difficult environment to grow up in but a very close community. There were a lot of strong personalities. People who are struggling, people who are desperate so it creates a tough environment.

‘My mum and dad did a very good job of being those strict parents in that environment because it was so easy to be let off the leash. They were very good at saying, no you’re not going to do what you want. You’re going to do this.

‘When I got to my late teenage years, it got to a point where they can’t control you as much. So, I was getting in bits of trouble during that time. It made me realise why they were like that.


Viddal Riley will be stepping through the ropes at the O2 Arena on Sunday night, where he'll be basking in the glow of the lights and the gaze of the cameras, bringing to his dream to life

Viddal Riley will be stepping through the ropes at the O2 Arena on Sunday night, where he’ll be basking in the glow of the lights and the gaze of the cameras, bringing to his dream to life

Mail Sport sat down with Riley at his gym to discuss his childhood, career and goals

Mail Sport sat down with Riley at his gym to discuss his childhood, career and goals


Riley had his hands wrapped for the first time at the age of six and his now a professional

Riley had his hands wrapped for the first time at the age of six and his now a professional

‘When they were being like that I thought it was unnecessary but when it stopped I was getting all sorts of trouble so I thought maybe they are right. So yeah, it was a really difficult environment.’

Riley’s early years in Tottenham laid the foundation for his journey into the world of boxing. He took up the sport at the age of four and began fighting at just six years old.


However, it wasn’t the love affair he had hoped for. Riley spoke about how the early pressure and rigorous training overshadowed the joy of boxing, causing him to burnout.

He found it hard to balance his social life and the intense commitment boxing demands – ultimately falling out of love with the sport and walking away from his dreams just over nine years ago.

‘I think I started too young. I think I started at an age when the rewards weren’t life changing so as much as I was winning the nationals every year and getting selected to be part of the England team my life wasn’t changing.

‘They are all very prestigious things that I look back on with great pride but at the time I was thinking, it’s not changing anything for me. I could go and do something that I would see immediate chance with.

Riley is also known for his online presence having 1.2million subscribers on YouTube alone


Riley is also known for his online presence having 1.2million subscribers on YouTube alone

Riley took a break from boxing but returned after watching Lawrence Okolie at the Olympics

Riley took a break from boxing but returned after watching Lawrence Okolie at the Olympics

‘I just got bored of hearing “this sets you up well for further down the line”. Obviously they were wise words that were coming from wise people but part of being a kid is that instant gratification. I wanted to feel all the titles I had won.

‘So yeah, I just thought let me try something else. Let me do something else with my time. But, then when I realised I should get back into it, was probably at the perfect time. Because when you had been a few years into resuming, that is when you do start to see those rewards. You do see a difference.’

He went on to add: ‘It’s definitely the mental side. Physically, you’re a kid. You’re young, you don’t have any issues, you could fly off a building if you wanted too and recover.

‘Mentally, it’s the discipline and the focus that is required when you are first exposed to so many distractions. I started at six years old, which is obviously very young. But, you don’t have any freedom as such.

‘You’re more directed and told where you are going to be until you develop into your teenage years when you have your own friendship groups and they have interests. You want to be a part of what they are doing and then whatever you have committed to become a nuisance.

‘I’m trying to think of a better word but I am just going to go with nuisance. It becomes a nuisance because you’re thinking, I can’t go here because I’ve got training, I can’t do this because I’ve got to run. So, when the rewards aren’t satisfying you, it’s very hard to make those sacrifices.’

Riley is friends with YouTuber-turned-boxer KSI and trained his for his first boxing match

Riley is friends with YouTuber-turned-boxer KSI and trained his for his first boxing match

Riley joined KSI on a trip to Las Vegas and ended up being signed by Mayweather Promotions

Riley joined KSI on a trip to Las Vegas and ended up being signed by Mayweather Promotions

After falling walking away from the sport, Riley was forced to take up a retail job. It certainly wasn’t his passion but the unexpected turn provided him some life-long friends.

‘I went straight into working full-time. My mum was like, well, you better do something if you’re not going to University and if you’re not fully focused on boxing. So, I picked retail. The easiest one to get into most of the time.

‘So I worked in retail and I worked in Night Tale in Oxford Street, Oxford Circus. I also worked at JD Sports. I had an interest for trainers and sports so I thought if I am going to do any sort of job I have to have at least some sort of care for it.

‘I ended up meeting a lot of life long friends through those jobs. It was a blessing, it lead me to so many things. I also got my PT qualification during that time. I am always someone who is going to do something even if I am not boxing.

‘I can’t just be alive and sit still, I will always find something to do. But, boxing just keep dragging me back in.’

Riley returned to the ring after watching Lawrence Okolie compete in the 2016 Olympic Games. The social media sensation found Okolie’s performance underwhelming and said it was a catalyst for propelling him back into the sport.

Riley said he was surprised by how 'calm' KSI was he first met the YouTuber (pictured together)

Riley said he was surprised by how ‘calm’ KSI was he first met the YouTuber (pictured together)

Riley is unbeaten in his professional career, having successfully won all 10 of his bouts

Riley is unbeaten in his professional career, having successfully won all 10 of his bouts

‘I remember I was working, I was doing fine but I was watching the Olympics.  I wanted to check who was there in my weight as I know that’s the weight I would be at if I was there.

‘When I watched Lawrence [Okolie] competing I thought, I definitely could have made the Olympics. Lawrence was a lot less experienced than me at the time. He got into the sport recently, he worked really hard and he was inspired by AJ at the 2012 Olympics then was at the 2016 Olympics.

‘I just thought, I know I am better than you. I have been doing it a lot longer than you, but with some focus and dedication you are at the Olympics. So, if I put some hard work and dedication in, with the head start I have on you, I must become something.

‘Surely I can do something. That’s why I was motivated after that to get back in the gym and not waste all those years of investment when he has shown what you can do in just four.

‘I was annoyed at myself because I believe if I had of stayed on it, it wouldn’t have allowed the avenue for him to go because I should have been there. I would have been working on being there for a much longer period of time.

‘Yeah it was frustrating and I just thought, I am going to waste this if I don’t go back now. I think I went back just at the right time.’

Despite forging his own career in boxing, Viddal Riley gained widespread attention when he played a pivotal role in training KSI for his highly publicised bouts against Joe Weller and Logan Paul.

Riley knocked Jone Volau down during their fight at the OVO Arena Wembley on June 11

Riley knocked Jone Volau down during their fight at the OVO Arena Wembley on June 11

Riley became the English cruiserweight champion after securing a unanimous decision win over Nathan Quarless

Riley became the English cruiserweight champion after securing a unanimous decision win over Nathan Quarless

Speaking about how he first met KSI, Riley said: ‘I trained a lot with KSI’s friends. They all lived in the same place and word just spread around the building that they’ve got a PT and that they’ve seen this improvement etc everyday.

‘But, that didn’t matter to him because he already had a PT. My purpose came when he was going to have a boxing match against Joe Weller. That was announced at the end of 2017 to take place at the beginning of 2018.

‘So, only when he needed my knowledge for boxing was when he was like I will check out what you guys are saying. He just came down to the gym and we did one session, two sessions, three sessions and then the fight got confirmed.

‘We just had a training camp building up until February. He performed really well but non of us at the time realised what it would develop into. At that time there was no crossover world. It was a one off event. I didn’t want to be a boxing coach. I just thought I was trying this guy for a one off event. I will give him everything until that point and then I will move on and go back to doing what I was doing.’

Riley went on to describe what KSI was like behind closed doors. He said: ‘KSI was a lot calmer than I expected. I think the personality he has on his channel is very different to the person you know personally.

The 26-year-old (pictured at his gym above) enjoyed an easy night against Quarless at York Hall in Bethnal Green and took one step closer to securing his own legacy as a fighter

The 26-year-old (pictured at his gym above) enjoyed an easy night against Quarless at York Hall in Bethnal Green and took one step closer to securing his own legacy as a fighter

‘I was just shocked at how chill he really was. He listens extremely well. when he puts his mind to something he really dives in and dedicates himself to it. That’s why he’s had all the success he has had.

‘We gelled really well from the jump. He was my big brother in situations and when it came to boxing and how to navigate that world, I was his big brother. We had a really good relationship. We used each other’s knowledge in our respective areas to help each other get where we wanted.’

Riley continued to work closely with KSI and accompanied the YouTuber on a life changing trip to Las Vegas. But, little did Riley know, he wouldn’t be returning to the UK.

Instead, he uprooted his life and moved permanently to Las Vegas after signing with Floyd Mayweather‘s company ‘Mayweather Promotions’ after impressing CEO Leonard Ellerbe during sparring.

‘I was away shadowing KSI. He paid for the flight for me and still to this day, that was something that changed my life. I had never had anyone pay anything for me to that scale. He decided to book a business class return flight to Vegas – which to me is crazy. But, he did it.

‘I felt like I had to make the most of it. They only thing I could do to justify it is go there and represent well. He’s going in the gym saying this is my trainer and he’s the one that taught me.

‘So, I can’t go in there and get beaten up – I might have been out of a job! So I went in there and put my best boots on. I had a few good sparring sessions. I have a good sparring session with Andrew Tabiti who as the top cruiserweight at the time in the US.

‘I did well against him, it was only three rounds but I had shown enough for them [Mayweather Promotions] to say come and work with us. Lets see if we can build something out of you.

‘I remember thinking, do I sign with Mayweather Promotions, move to Vegas as a 21 year old or do I keep striving for the Olympics. I thought, hell yeah I am moving to the strip.

‘I said I am moving to the strip and that I was going to make this work in the desert and in the sun and have a brand new experience. I don’t regret doing it. At that time it was like just do it.

‘It just doesn’t happen, you don’t get calls saying “hey I am one of the best boxers ever, do you want to sign for me”… ah no I am good bro thanks. You are not doing it!’.

However, Riley’s love affair with Las Vegas didn’t last long. The social media star decided to give up his life on the strip and return to England after a series of injuries and government shutdowns due to Covid tainted his experience.

‘A lot was missing. Family being one of the main things, you know, just that freedom of knowing where you are, and knowing where you can go, how you can spend your spare time.

‘Even having your cousins down the road. You know, it was just a lot of things that I took for granted, we’re gone. What made it even more difficult was the fact it was during the pandemic. So my family couldn’t even travel to see me. So I just felt like I was stuck there.

‘From a boxing side of things, I just needed my dad to coach me again. I didn’t think so, which is why I went for it. I thought he had taught me enough and that someone else could build off that and that they’d get through to me. But when I was there, I realised that no one gets through to me how he gets through to me.

‘He coaches me in a way where it does set it into my mind. And I think without that, I knew I wouldn’t be the same fighter and I could feel myself becoming worse as a fighter. So, I had to move back. I dropped everything, spent a ton of money, inconvenienced a lot of people and moved back.’

Riley is looking to extend his professional record to 11-0 when he takes on Lawal at the O2 Arena on Sunday evening

Riley is looking to extend his professional record to 11-0 when he takes on Lawal at the O2 Arena on Sunday evening

When asked why he felt his dad was able to get through to him in a way no other coach has managed, Riley said: ‘He’s my parent you know. In the long and short of it he’s had to get through to me for multiple things in my life at different times.

‘Boxing is just another section of that. He he’s had to teach me everything in life. Even in the beginning he had to tell me to pee here or wherever. He’s found a way to get through to me.

‘Walk like this, talks like this, even simple things. Simple life lessons is what they are and boxing is just another lesson. So the same way he learned how to get those things through to me, he’s learned to get boxing through to me. He said right if I’m going to teach Viddal boxing, and it has to be like this, this is how he learns.’

Riley is looking to extend his professional record to 11-0 when he takes on Lawal at the O2 Arena on Sunday evening.



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