20th June 2011

It seemed evident from early on that Ryan Rhodes’ game plan was to stop Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. His team had considered that trying to out box and win a points decision against a Mexican boxing idol in Mexico was not an option and a knockout was the European champions only hope of delivering a massive upset.

Most could understand that thinking and Ryan gave it his best shot against one of the rising stars of world boxing. But the WBC light-middleweight champion who looks to be improving in every fight, proved to be too strong, too quick, too busy and too young for the Sheffield ‘Spice Boy’ who’s third world title opportunity ended in the twelfth round, when his brave stance and willingness to engage Canelo was cut abrupt.

Boxing fans knew Ryan was in for an hard night, which ever way you looked at it. But knowing the Sheffield mans sublime skills, ring craft and added experience, the Rhodes believers thought that he may have the style to tie the young champion in knots and give him untold problems. I had envisaged in hope that Rhodes would frustrate Canelo, never being in one spot for a second, having him punching thin air and becoming frustrated, walking onto big shots from Rhodes.
In this predictive scenario, Alvarez takes a controversial split decision, an home town gift called into question, a boxing public out cry occurs, Canelo’s credentials are called into question and having to prove himself a money spinning rematch in Las Vegas is made for Ryan’s efforts. But in reality it was just so different.

What in-fact happened was Rhodes chose to stand his ground with Alvarez and his hope of finding a weak spot on his opponents chin didn’t materialise and he was subject to a sustained assault by Canelo, who started and ended every attack with accurate punches to the head and body. Rhodes was overwhelmed at times by Alvarez’s volume of punches and his plan to feel out the Mexican in the early rounds and confuse him with alternate stance stance switches from orthodox to southpaw proved fruitless, as the young champion had an answer for and established a rhythm that eventually came to the boil when Ryan went for broke.

Rhodes 34, shown his steel in the altitude heated atmosphere, 5,138 feet above sea level, VFC Arena in Alvarez’s home town of Guadalajara. He deserves the credit for standing with Alvarez and at times having good success with his own jab and putting up a spirited challenge. He gave the champion puzzles, but the red headed Canelo was able to solve them instantly and in the fourth dropped the Brit. A left to Rhodes’ head followed by a right to his temple saw him on the seat of his pants. He wasn’t really hurt and was straight up on his feet, but Alvarez had started his break through and knew he could trouble Rhodes.
The 20-year-old Alvarez’s quick jabs, uppercuts and thudding right hands began to take their toll on the challenger and he wore the cuts and bruises of battle, a reddened and scrawped face and cut right eye that needed working on between rounds

Ryan was still pushing the good ship Rhodes through turbulent waters and after being pushed to the floor in the seventh and showing signs of fatigue, more sickening body shots from Alvarez added to his woes as the the Mexican pushed forward. Rhodes was winning the knowledgeable home crowds respect. But with both eyes now showing signs of damage, the stocky Mexican moved in for the stoppage.

The end came in the closing seconds of the last round when trainer and friend Dave Coldwell, let the blood stained white towel from his grip and into the ring, as Panamanian referee Hector Afu stepped in to stop the fight, with Rhodes reeling from a sustained attack from Alvarez.

Ryan’s 16 year career was not to be topped by a world title and a fairy tale against the odds ending, this night was not to be his crowning glory, he fought the best out there at the weight no doubt and for one of the prestigious world titles, going out on his shield and on his feet.

Afterwards Rhodes (45-5, 31 KOs) paid tribute to Alvarez and admitted that although he had soaked up Canelo’s head shots, he had been hurt to the body too much by who he sees as a boxing superstar.

“I had under estimated his strength and power. He’s a strong young kid – I was beaten tonight by a superstar of world boxing. said Rhodes after the fight.

“His body shots took their toll on me through the fight. Then he caught me with a couple of good body shots in that final round.

“I just couldn’t get out of the way and the referee stopped it.

“But yes, he caught me with too many body shots.

“I was able to take the head shots but the body shots seemed to take their toll on me.”

Trainer Coldwell said: “I’m so proud of Ryan. It’s been a pleasure to work with him over the past six years. Who would have thought we would have got this far.”

Rhodes isn’t going to let this defeat deter him from the game, he plans to continue at British and European level at which he is still undoubtedly the best at light-middleweight and isn’t ready to hang up his gloves and ride off into the Sheffield sunset just yet.

“I’m still not finished. I’ve still got plenty of good years in me yet. I’m still loving the game. I never lost my European title or gave it up. So I’m still number one in Europe, I could fight for that and see where we go from there.”

Ryan and his team have carried themselves so well in the build up to this fight and seeing there pre fight videos and the atmosphere they had created in camp, they had embraced Mexico and Mexico had embraced them, as they trained for this big boxing event. It will be a pleasure to see Ryan back in the ring and pitting his wits against the the best domestic fighters, this was only his first loss in five years! A fourth world title fight down the line for Rhodes? maybe……. maybe!

Alvarez, takes his record to 37-0-1 with 27 KOs. It is a remarkable record to have at such a young age and already a world champion. He turned professional aged just 15, and learnt his trade on the tough Mexican circuit. On Saturday night he delivered a boxing master-class, coupled with a maturity ahead of his years and is well on course to fulfilling the plaudits and future super star status that is being bestowed upon him. This win also highlights from a British boxing prespective, just how well Matthew Hatton coped with Alvarez in March, going the distance when contesting the vacant title.

The young champ is now reported to have a £40 million fight purse lined up with Golden Boy Promotions and possible fights with Julio Cesar Chavez Jnr, Miguel Cotto and ultimately Filipino idol Manny Pacquaio, generally regarded as the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in the world, all on the horizon.
By Chris Maylett
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