Hartford native Richard “Popeye the Sailor Man” Rivera is not above signing a can of spinach and giving it to a fan. This kind of humor is indicative of the high spirits that this lifelong boxing fan demonstrated as he prepared with trainer John Scully for his match with Ernesto Berrospe Rivas when CTLatinoNews.com spoke with the team at the Palladium in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Thirty-year-old Rivera, who studied boxing since age 14, knocked Rivas out in the first round during their cruiserweight title fight in August. The National Boxing Association (NBA) America’s intercontinental belt was the evening’s co-main event.
Rivera has never been seriously interested in pursuing anything but boxing as a career admitting that as a student at the Synergy Alternative High School in East Hartford – he was not academically inclined.
The boxer trains others, including children, who he said can get much from the sport. “The list is endless,” Rivera said regarding the benefits. “Kids come in with no confidence or motivation and are down and out. The training increases their self-worth and helps them physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. They are at the gym and not spending their money on weed. They’re accomplishing something.”
The Hartford south ender described himself as a proud Puerto Rican and noted the large number of Latino fighters that inspired him, such as Hector Camacho and Felix “Tito” Trinidad. “I look up to all of them,” he said.
He described his view of boxing as a complete lifestyle of watching boxing videos, older fights and eating healthy food.
Rivera, who usually fights at light heavyweight, said he enjoyed competing in cruiserweight because he is generally faster than his heavier opponents. His speed, style, and regard for the sport have resulted in an undefeated record – he is 19-0 with 11 knockouts and a no contest, according to www.boxingrec.com.
“His style is unique,” said Scully about Rivera, who turned professional at 26. “He has yet to fight at a world-class level, but he is definitely building up.” He described Rivera as an elusive technical fighter adept at avoiding punches and excellent at surprising his opponents by striking from less apparent positions.
Rivera not only aspires to be a world champion but also wants to be an ambassador for boxing. He wants to speak for the sport and his community and fight for them, he said.
“There is no secret to it,” he advised aspiring fighters. “It just takes commitment and perseverance.”
Cover Photo Credit: popeye.boxer