Messi had little effect in the fight, although he got through with the odd decent left hook, Rhodes was in full control, and in the 3rd, scored a legitimate knockdown this time and finally made the break through. Messi was not to be beaten easily, and got up to keep pushing the champion and showed his durability by taking some heavy shots from Rhodes, before the Spanish ref stepped in to call a halt in the 6th round.
Sheffield veteran Ryan Rhodes, rolled back the years yet again, in retaining his European light-middleweight crown stopping Italian Luca Messi at one minute and nine seconds in the 6th round, at Ponds Forge arena in the steel city.
This the second coming of Rhodes looked as good, if not better than the old version, who had fallen out of love with the game for a few years, but seemed to have got the hunger back when he stopped Jamie Moore to win the title.
Rhodes started the fight quickly, keeping Messi on the end of his jab, and landing his lighting left cross with ease, that bounced off the bobbing head of the Italian who pressed forward.
Messi was briefly knocked down in the first, getting caught square on, but he bounced up immediately and was obviously not hurt, but the writing was on the wall.
Rhodes took total control of the fight, constantly switch hitting, Messi 35, a former two-weight Italian champion and European challenger, who’s corner man brother, Alessandro, is a Vatican priest, vowed to defeat Rhodes and win the title to help his brother’s Church, but Rhodes had not read the religious script.
Ricky Hatton, who promoted the event, was knocked out by the response from Sheffield fight fans, extra seats had to be fitted to cope with the demand for tickets, despite the fight being shown live on Sky Sports.
Rhodes, sprung onto the British Boxing scene, which now seems a long time ago, the original self styled ‘Spice Boy’ originally learnt his trade has a child with Brendan Ingle, at his Winker Bank gym, in the Steel inner City of Sheffield. Coming through the ranks with friends and former world champions, Naseem Hamed and Johnny Nelson, they were all to all adapt the hands down reflect style, that Ingle first came to prominence with, Sheffield’s legendary pugilist Errol ‘Bomber’ Graham.
In 1997 in only his 17th fight Rhodes was given a shot at the world title, but lacking in experience and in with a seasoned champion in Otis Grant, he lost on points in his WBO middleweight title challenge
Rhodes is now well on his way to another world title shot 13 years after his first effort, and hopes his new promoter Ricky Hatton can do the business and get him a shot at one of the legitimate world titles, now he feels, he is in his prime.
“That felt absolutely amazing, coming back to Sheffield after all these years was great. I beat Silky Jones here in 1996 and I’m still selling this place out now, said Rhodes after the fight.
“I’d seen some bits of him (Messi) on YouTube but I didn’t see too many tapes. He is a tough kid. I hit him hard with my right hand and he stood up to all of it. I think I had to shake off a bit of ring rust having been out for seven months but I am absolutely over the moon.”
“I am in my prime now and there’s no reason why I can’t go on and make my dream come true, to become world champion,”
“It’s fantastic to have Ricky promoting me. He’s been there, seen it and done it. I’ve got no reason to doubt that Ricky can in the future maybe get me a world title fight.”