Ryan works out with trainer Dave Coldwell
By Clive Bernath: Make no mistake 20 year-old Mexican wonder kid Saul Alvarez is expected to retain his WBC junior-middleweight crown when he makes his first title defence against current European champion Ryan Rhodes at the Arena VFG in Jalisco, Mexico on Saturday evening. After all the 20 year-old is undefeated in 36 starts and is being groomed as the next big Mexican boxing superstar. And at age 34 and 16 years of plying his trade as a professional Alvarez could be forgiven for thinking Rhodes is a routine first title defence on his journey towards boxing super stardom.
Not so. Sheffield born Rhodes may well be in the twilight of his career and tasted defeat on four occasions in his 49 fight career but he has earned his shot at the title the hard way and if team Alvarez Rhodes he has arrived in Mexico to make up the numbers they could not be more wrong.
Rhodes’ career to date has been nothing short of a fairytale. At age just 20, the self styled ‘Spiceboy’ became the youngest boxer to win a British title when he stopped Paul Jones inside eight rounds in December 1996. That was followed by two successful title defences before an ambitious step up in class and weight to face experienced Canadian Otis Grant for the WBO middleweight crown. In 1997. The move up in weight and class at such a young age proved too much for the young Rhodes and he was unanimously out-pointed over 12 close rounds. The move to middleweight eventually proved to be a big mistake on his part as two more stoppage defeats to the big punching Jason Matthews(ko 2) and Lee Blundell (tko 3), threatened to all but finish his career at the top flight. Rhodes, however, is a true fighter in every sense of the word and after a handful of routine wins he challenged another big punching middleweight, Gary Lockett, for the WBU middleweight crown. Again Rhodes fell short at 160lbs but this time he lasted the distance, going down on points. That defeat to the Welsh puncher was in July 2006 and since then Ryan has remained unbeaten in 10 fights, dropped back down to his natural weight of 154lbs, hooked himself up with new trainer Dave Coldwell and won the European title.
Rhodes, of course does not possess the natural speed and movement he did in his earlier career but he is still the awkward switch hitting southpaw he always was, vastly more experienced and far more ring savvy than he was in his early 20’s . he is arguably in the best form of his career and will not be in the least bit intimidated by a fast and heavy punching young Mexican or the 11,000 plus partisan locals, cheering on their local hero.
Alvarez will undoubtedly have studied tapes of Rhodes and seen how difficult he will be to hit cleanly, unlike ’his last opponent Matthew Hatton, who provided a far more static target.
We can expect Rhodes to jab and move, provide angles and wait patiently for any openings to appear and it will be interesting to see how the young Alvarez copes with such an awkward and mobile opponent. If the champion does not cut off the ring early and slow Rhodes down with some heavy shots to the body we can expect a cat and mouse tussle in the early part of the fight. This is a tough, tough night’s work for the young champion. I see him coming out on top in the end but he may have to come from behind to nick a tight decision at the end of 12 hard fought rounds. Rhodes is fully aware this is his last chance at major title glory after such a long and distinguished career and one thing we can be sure of is-he will do British boxing proud.
June 15, 2011
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