British boxing loses another former star in huge-punching Richard Evatt
Livefight tribute: Ritchie “Tiger” Evatt 1973-2012
By Michael J Jones
It was news that shocked and saddened the British boxing community that former featherweight contender Richard Evatt was found dead at a homeless shelter last Monday night. Evatt, a father of three and just a month shy of his 39th birthday, fatally collapsed at a Salvation Army hostel in Hillfields. He was rushed to hospital but died shortly afterwards. A post-mortem has yet to confirm the exact cause of death, but a 32-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder and has been released on police bail pending further enquiries.
The big-punching Coventry fighter was a star amateur who won the 1993 ABA bantamweight title under Triumph ABC and was expected to achieve big things when turning pro in December 95’. Evatt, nick-named “Tiger”, soon built a solid following in the paid ranks as he left a trail of destruction with his aggressive, seek-and-destroy, style. Many sturdy and durable fighters were left unceremoniously in a heap at the fighter’s lethal fists.
Popular Evatt would regularly enter the ring wearing tiger-striped shorts and a matching hair-style and his “Tiger” nick-name seemed more than apt. Of his first fifteen opponents, only legendary survivors Miguel Matthews and Peter Buckley succeeded in hearing the final bell. Ritchie stopped Mzukisi Oliphant in seven for the IBO Inter-continental belt before losing that title in his first defeat the following year to tough Smith Odoom in Poland.
The Coventry slugger regrouped to stop old foe Buckley before taking on his most formidable foe in former two-time world champion Junior “Poison” Jones at the MEN Arena. The IBO title fight was on the undercard of Naseem Hamed’s world title defence vs Paul Ingle and was an intriguing cross-roads bout. Given that Jones was taking part in his 50th pro bout compared to Evatt’s 18th and that he had also featured in recent bouts against the likes of Mexican legends Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, it was a very audacious match-up for the young prospect. However, the younger, and far-less experienced, Evatt rose to the occasion magnificently and a titanic battle ensued. Jones eventually found a big left hook to stop his tiring co-challenger in the eleventh round but only after Evatt had bossed the former champion most of the night. The fired-up puncher had dropped his slicker-boxing opponent in the opener before wobbling the American to his boots in the eighth in a messy, but exciting, bout. The beaten fighter had been leading on two of the judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
Evatt’s reputation grew if anything after that defeat but he’d surprisingly lose his next two bouts via the short route also. In his comeback fight six months after the Jones bout, he was forced to retire after just one round against unbeaten Australian Mick O’ Malley with a broken jaw in a shot at the vacant commonwealth title.
The struggling boxer would then be shocked by six-bout novice Isaac Sebaduuka. The heavy-handed “Tiger” dropped Sebaduuka in the first but in the next session was caught with a massive right-hand to suffer his fourth loss in five contests. Evatt had been expected to win easily against an opponent who scored easily the biggest win of his short career.
The Barry Hearn-promoted boxer regrouped with a series of wins in 2000 and scored one last noteworthy victory when out-pointing fellow Coventry fighter Roy Rutherford over ten close rounds (predictably in Coventry). Evatt was then disappointingly left in the fistic wilderness as a brain-scan scare left him out of the ring for 18 long months. Mooted bouts against fellow Coventry star and former amateur stable-mate Dean Pithie and French IBO champion Affif Djelti failed to materialise.
Evatt would only fight once in the next two years before Chesterfield’s Craig Spacie wiped out the faded fighter in just two rounds. It was Ritchie’s final bout and he retired with a still-respectable record of 20-5 (14).
Former pro light-welterweight Georgie Smith was a close friend of Ritchie. He had this to say, “It’s really terrible news, I was devastated when I heard he had passed. Me and Ritchie were in Matchroom promotions together and were good friends. He was really tough as nails and could hit so hard for his size. We used to spar together even though I was bigger. Like a lot of us at that time, Ritchie could have been so much more (as a boxer) but he still did very well, winning an Intercontinental title and gave Junior Jones a great fight.”
“I remember when I was going to fight Richie Edwards in a Southern Area title fight and me and Ritchie Evatt were in camp together. They brought in Junior Witter for sparring, I did a few rounds with him and then Ritchie gets in and knocks Witter down! He punched so hard for his size; Junior left the camp the next day. We used to go out for a drink a bit after our fights too. I’m a West Ham man and he was from Coventry, we went out around Romford and the big game on that day was Coventry versus West Ham! He was giving it large we had to leave in the end” chuckles Georgie before adding, “I just want to give my condolences to Ritchie’s family and friends, he’ll be sadly missed and I’m absolutely gutted I never got to see him one last time. He’d lost touch with each other the last few years and now he’s gone.”
Another former Coventry fighter, Baz Carey, had this to say,” I used to spar Ritchie down the pro gym in Coventry. We had some cracking tear-ups’ in sparring, he was always very welcoming to me and was a very witty character and nice guy. My sincere condolences go out to his family; 38-years-old is no age to go. Rest in peace Ritchie.”
The former fighter is rumoured to have had problems with addictions as he struggled to cope with life after boxing. Shortly before his retirement in 2001, troubled Evatt openly admitted that he’d blown around £50,000 of ring earnings on “partying and drinking.” The fighter was once described by promoter Hearn as “pound-for-pound one of the hardest hitters in the world” and it’s amazing to think such a promising young pro never won a major title in his drama-laden career.
Evatt’s exciting style endeared him to fight fans who loved his menacing, huge-punching way of fighting. Ritchie could appear crude as he wound up his power-punches but, when they landed, the results could be spectacular. He could score a knock-out at any point in a contest and it is a glaring shame he never competed against other celebrated UK featherweights of his era such as Paul Ingle and Steve Robinson.
All of the staff here at Livefight would like to express their condolences to the family of Ritchie Evatt, a real character in British boxing and a very exciting fighter in the 90’s. RIP “Tiger” Evatt.