On Saturday night (Sept 23) in Orlando, Richardson Hitchins has an opportunity to prove that in his toughest test to date an experienced campaigner like Jose Zepeda is not on his level. The highly confident and unbeaten super-lightweight, currently 16-0 (7) as a pro, spoke to Boxing News about his next fight, Regis Prograis, becoming a legend, his biggest inspiration in the sport and Montana Love.
BN: What are your thoughts on Jose Zepeda and the fight itself?
RH: My opinion is he’s coming to fight. He’s back at it again in another big fight. He has another huge opportunity. This is a guy that’s 34 years old, fought in three world title fights; time is ticking. He was not gonna get an opportunity like this [in] too many other places. It was either fight a young, solid, undefeated fighter like me or his management team were like, “This is a waste of time because he’s not fighting the champions; he’s not fighting anybody else.” I don’t see him fighting anybody else right now so this opportunity for him right now is the perfect opportunity for him to see what he’s got left in the sport of boxing because, like I said, time is ticking. I think he will prepare himself and be ready for this opportunity because if I was him I would too. All the experience he has, he’s been here before, so I don’t see him coming [in] any different than he has [before] in his 40 professional fights and that’s ready to fight.
BN: Given his experience, would an impressive victory from you elevate your standing in the sport?
RH: I wouldn’t say Zepeda [has] got some big wins. I think that’s a little far-fetched if you really look at his history. He’s been in the ring with some big names in the 140 division in Regis Prograis and Jose Ramirez; those are top guys. But as far as him getting big wins, I think that’s a bit overboard. He got a win in the Ivan Baranchyk fight in a fight of the year where they were both rock ‘em sock ‘em robots.
BN: A big win for him I would say.
RH: Yeah, a big win for a guy like him. I don’t think Ivan Baranchyk was a threat at 140 at that time. If that Ivan Baranchyk was at 140 right now, I don’t think he would be too much of a threat for any top talent in the 140 division. I think Zepeda showed in that fight he wasn’t on that level period because he was in a fight of the year, which was entertaining for the fans. But when you look at it, that kind of showed he had a lot of work to do. If you’re a really high calibre boxer, that was a guy you were supposed to make your adjustments against and get it done in a way cleaner fashion. Josue Vargas, I don’t want to talk too bad of him because that’s someone that’s coming from New York I grew up with at one time when we were kids. But when you look at the Josue Vargas win, he is not on that level; like Zepeda knew coming into the fight. Vargas was a guy who got hurt in the fight prior to Zepeda which was [against] Willie Shaw who wasn’t a big puncher. So, I think those were his two biggest wins besides the Pedraza fight. All those three names, the only one I could give credit for is the Pedraza fight. I think every other fight he fought in his professional career he struggled to show he was a different calibre and separate himself.
BN: So, would that then mean you have to show you are levels above him and not struggle?
RH: Right. I see Zepeda figuring out he has never been in a ring with a guy of my calibre. We talk about guys like Jose Ramirez and Regis Prograis but Prograis has already shown he don’t have that skillset. Supposedly he’s the guy that’s very compact, relies on a big left hand and good upper body movement. He don’t show versatility at all in his game. Regis Prograis don’t show blistering combinations, he don’t show a fundamental jab, he don’t show good footwork, fast feet; he don’t show a lot of things in his game. Guys like Ramirez and Prograis, they’re one way, they’re coming straight for you. When it’s a guy like me it’s a whole different adjustment Zepeda is gonna have to make. Like I say, if you look at Zepeda’s career, he has fought a lot of guys he had the advantages over; guys that kinda had to push the fight at him. He’s never ever been in the ring with a guy with as much athleticism as me. The most athletic guy he’s been in the ring with, as far as agility goes, was maybe Hank Lundy at 37 years old. And he struggled in that fight. I think when Zepeda gets in the ring with me his only thing to test is to see if I can take a punch.
BN: His win against Baranchyk was obviously a fight of the year contender, but do those kind of fights entertain you or do they expose flaws more than anything else?
RH: The fight is entertaining. I plan to fight right now and I see you and your brother fighting and y’all are putting each other down, y’all going into the fourth round and there’s knockdowns. I’m like, “Oh shit, these guys are…” but like I said, that just shows that as far as a boxer, the science, the craft you don’t really have much to your game because I’m looking at it like this. When I fight guys, I pay attention to everything, and I state facts. You look at the post-fight interview and it was a scary moment because he’d never been down in his career before and that was a moment like, “What the fuck is going on?” Me, as a fighter, and a human being, I’m in a fight like that on national television with a lot on the line and I’m getting dropped; naturally the best of me is going to come out. Any adjustments I’m gonna make I’m doing it right there in that moment. That shows right there after one knockdown, two knockdowns, three knockdowns, four knockdowns, five knockdowns. He still couldn’t couldn’t make no adjustment as far as boxing till he caught Ivan Baranchyk with the same shot he kept catching Baranchyk over and over with. That shows his level as far as boxing. Like I said, it showed he couldn’t take a punch and it showed that he couldn’t make adjustments as a boxer. Man, I’m not gonna lie to you, Zepeda is a guy with a built-up record that got to a title fight plain and simple. There was a guy he fought in Mexico and then he was able to get a shot at Terry Flanagan. [He] comes back, builds up his record more in Mexico, and gets a shot for Jose Ramirez belt. Then he came back and fought guys like Castaneda, Joseu Vargas and Hank Lundy and got another shot again at Prograis’ belt. He didn’t take the route I took to get to a world title.
BN: You’ve said that see yourself as being a legend of the sport. Who do you think will join you in the future as a legend and who do you view as legends of the past?
RH: A lot of guys bring different things to the sport of boxing. You’ve got guys like Manny Pacquiao who was very talented. Small, was able to go up. There’s a lot of legends in the sport. My particular legend is Floyd Mayweather. If you want to create the face of a boxing god, I would say it’s Floyd Mayweather. A master of his craft. He was super dedicated to the sport of boxing and he was a perfect god for the sport of boxing. That’s my legend. You can compare guys like Sugar Ray Leonard and all those guys to Floyd Mayweather, but I feel like those guys showed a lot of vulnerability in their game even though they were in big entertaining fights. If you look at boxing, Floyd is that guy when it comes to a legend. Right now, people I think are going to be legends in the sport are guys like Jaron Ennis, Shakur Stevenson, myself, Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis. These are can’t-miss talents. All those guys have that particular skillset and talent you won’t find in too many other fighters. These guys have the potential to be a legend in the sport. It’s just what you do in the days to come.
BN: You’ve also said you want to inspire the next generation. Who inspires you?
RH: I feel like Floyd is one of my biggest inspirations. Guys like Shakur Stevenson, Gervonta Davis, those are guys that are my biggest inspiration. Those are guys that I’ve been around, and I see their story. Everything I’m going through right now they’ve already been through it. Seeing how they handle it… and seeing how they took everything… and how they performed. They came from nothing and made themselves into something. I gotta give them their flowers for that. I take my hat off to them. I’m inspired by that and I want to be in the position they’re in one day and from the looks of it I’ve been doing the right things. You’re here right now interviewing me for my first main event in my 17th professional fight, so that goes to show what level I’m at.
BN: How would you sum up Montana Love in one word?
BN: Is that a fight that you still want?
RH: To be honest, it was a fight where I just wanted to prove to Eddie [Hearn] he ain’t shit. He’s not on [the] type of level I’m on as a fighter. I felt like Montana was a guy trying to finesse his way to big-time boxing and get what he could get: like a big fight. I’m ready to prove myself over and over versus whoever. Montana’s definitely a talented guy but, compared to me, he’s not on my level. And what can you do? If you’re not blessed with the God-given abilities I’ve got, there’s nothing he can do to fix that. I was able to dedicate myself to boxing and get the certain experiences I need to be on the level I am. I’m still paying my dues to boxing so I can talk the way I talk. If I say a guy like Montana isn’t on my level, I really believe that.
BN: I read in an interview from 2020 that you believe you’ll one day end up fighting one day at 160lbs. Is that something you can still see happening in the future?
RH: I don’t know. I was looking at 147 (lbs) and looking at guys like “Boots” [Ennis] and the [Roiman] Villa guy he fought and that weight class looked big as hell. I think the highest weight class I can go to realistically in the future is 154lbs. Maybe 160, I don’t know. I’m one of those guys that’s extremely dedicated to the sport. I’m always in the gym and really obsessed with mastering this thing called boxing. I think 154 is the biggest weight class I see myself at and I think I said that at the time because Floyd Mayweather [was] always a guy who would look at me like, “Yo, with your size, you can possibly go up to 160lbs when you look at your frame”. Maybe. We don’t know.