What may be most impressive about Riek Chuol is not that he won state and national boxing titles this year and within six weeks of each other. What is really startling is that the 18-year-old, who trains at Doveton Boxing Club, has only been boxing for just over eighteen months.
Riek was crowned ‘Best Boxer’ at the Under 19 and Elite Victorian State Titles, held in May, and won the final of the Victorian 54-57kg Youth Male division. Chuol then won the Under 57kg Youth Division National Championship at the Australian School’s Boxing Championships in Adelaide on Sunday 8 July.
Riek tells Umbrella News a little bit about himself:
Where were you born?
I was born in a refugee camp in Ethiopia, and we migrated to Australia on a refugee visa when I was one year-old, back in 2007.
Are you still at school? Any plans for further or continuing education?
Yes, I’m looking to go to uni and to just to have that degree on me- especially in medicine.
Describe your family life
I grew up in a family of ten with six sisters and one little brother. In 2009, our parents separated, mum looking after us mainly– we moved around a lot like over five times and had our struggles but it made everyone tough. My older sisters are my biggest role models and my little siblings are my best friends.
How did you discover boxing?
I was attacked and assaulted back in Melton and I really wanted to fight fairly so I saw boxing as an opportunity to just let out my anger and frustration. So when I moved into my sister’s house in Cranbourne, I was searching for gyms and I emailed Ryan [Editor’s Note: Ryan Wilson, Riek’s coach]. I know I don’t fear anyone so I gave it my all.
Who is your greatest role model in boxing/life?
My coach– he’s experienced everything, everyday. He gives me advice about both life and boxing, helping me to be a better boxer and person.
What is your favourite part of boxing?
Definitely the sparring: I love it ‘cause that’s where I mainly hit people and work on the things we learned on people.
What is your least favourite part of boxing?
Probably doing hill sprints- it’s just really annoying.
Do you listen to music when you train?
In the gym, we play music – we mainly listen to rock and rap while we train.
What does boxing give you that other sports don’t?
It’s just you in the ring, the intensity of the crowd, the coaches and your opponent across the ring and we are both out there actually trying to hurt each other.
What needs to improve/change in your training or life for you to be world champion?
I’ll say sleep ‘cause I don’t be sleeping in the right times, which gets me tired throughout the day and affects my training most of the time.
How do you find your weight class? Any plans to move?
In my first few fights, I was going in a lot under the weight limit and my coach told me to go 57kg but as I get older I’ll eventually move up.
Do you follow a specific diet?
Yeah, during fight week I follow a really specific diet just of oats, tuna salad, rice crackers, chicken and broccoli, but I rarely eat junk food, I eat what my sister cooks, which is mainly, rice and stew.
What training do you do outside of the gym?
Go home and study or play basketball, which is my favourite sport besides boxing
What part of your training do you think people would underestimate?
My IQ– I heard people say I’m just like wild out in the ring but I think I have good shot selection and am able to hit opponents from a lot unorthodox angles due to my reach.
How do you rate your chin/power/speed/footwork?
My chin is pretty good, like an 8/10- I can easily go on with no effect, which is bad. My power: I say I hit real bad, half my wins are from stoppages. I’m really quick so I rate that an 8/10 and my footwork, I’m still looking to improve that the most right now, so a 5/10
What does your family think of your boxing career?
My mum at first was really worried and called my coach ‘cause she was so concerned.
They are really proud– they are truely my biggest supporters. They drove all the way to Sydney and surprised me for the King of the Ring tournament.
Why do you think you’ve managed to climb so far so quickly in your career?
I feel like I got the grit in me, I need to win at any cost, and the lion mentality I bring to the ring.
Are there any fighters that worry you the most in your journey in Victoria?
I don’t worry about fighters but the best there is right now is Jacob [Editor’s Note: 17 year-old Jacob Cassar]. He is the best around my age and weight. He is an incredible talent– I respect him a lot.