By Terence Dooley
Ryan Rhodes called time on his boxing career this afternoon when announcing his retirement after a 52-fight run that took in three world title shots and saw the stylish southpaw bring the British and European light-middleweight titles back to his home city of Sheffield. Rhodes, 35, announced his decision at a press conference after what he described as an “emotional week” of soul searching.
Rhodes, 46-6 (31), performed well in his most recent fight despite losing by a seventh-round stoppage to the undefeated Sergey Rabchenko, who took Rhodes out with a neat body shot when they met at Manchester’s Velodrome in June. “The Spice Boy” missed out on his former EBU title in that one and subsequently decided that both his body and his desire would struggle to hit the heights necessary for a final world title push.
“Probably a bit of both, really, because obviously I’m not getting any younger and want to be boxing at a certain level,” said Rhodes when telling BoxingScene that his decision was partly down to the aches and pains of training plus the prospect of facing a long, hard slog back into contention.
“It is going to take me about 18 months to two years to get back to that level. I could come back for the British title, but can I get up for that after winning it twice and having the Lonsdale belt for keeps? I’ve got too much respect for the British title and the guys who fight for it to risk not being able to get up for that type of fight. I think I’ve made the right decision.”
Despite giving away almost ten years to Rabchenko, Rhodes showed a lot of quality in his last outing and had talked about having one last crack at climbing the world rankings. Rhodes, though, decided that all roads led to retirement after the defeat, although he thought long and hard before announcing his decision in order to make sure that it was the right, and a permanent, move.
“I never went into that fight thinking I was going to get beat, but at this stage in my career the risk was there and it was a question of what I was going to do afterwards,” said Rhodes.
“I always wanted to make the decision on my own and not have people advising me to do it. I’ve bowed out at a decent level because I was well in that Rabchenko fight and it was 50/50. I’ve made the decision on my own back and have retired because I want to retire — and I’m proud of that as well.
“This is it for me — now everyone knows about it I feel a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’m 36 in a few months, making light-middleweight isn’t getting any easier and the fellas up at middleweight are just too big for me, which I found out before (when fighting at 160). It is the right decision. I am glad I’ve made this decision now.”
Still, it is a major step for the former fighter. Rhodes is a ubiquitous presence at boxing shows in and around “The Steel City” and beyond, he has a lot of love for the game and struggled to maintain his composure throughout a topsy-turvy week.
“This last week it has been like I’ve been watching E.T. all week — I don’t mind admitting that I’ve shed a few tears,” he said. “I wrote a statement last night and read it out to my wife and kids, and we all had a few tears. It has been a very emotional day today because I walked into Brendan Ingle’s gym at 6-years-old and have been doing this for thirty years so there’s going to be a massive gap in my life now that I’m no longer boxing.
“I’d love to help (former trainer) Dave (Coldwell) and the lads in the gym and keep involved that way. I’d love to be in the corner with Dave and apply for my corner licence. One of my sponsors has been brilliant and offered me a job at his place, so there are offers there and I’d like to be involved someway. Hopefully I can pass my knowledge on and help someone in their career.”
Rhodes’s title wins over Paul “Silky” Jones (when Rhodes won the British title by eighth-round TKO in 1996), Vincent Vuma (a wide decision win) and Jamie Moore (for the EBU title in October 2009) showed different aspects of his game — youthful exuberance was the order of the day against Jones, clever boxing was on display when he met Vuma in 2008 and he out-gunned Moore in a modern British classic.
Despite the pain of world title defeats to Otis Grant in 1997, Jason Matthews in 1999 (for the WBO middleweight and interim middleweight titles respectively) and rising star Saul Alvarez (a 12th-round stoppage defeat for the WBC light-middleweight belt in June 2011), Rhodes has more fond memories than regrets. He pointed out that he had exceeded his own expectations, which is really all one can ask of oneself when all things are considered.
“That is the one regret,” said Rhodes as talk turned to those world title attempts. “I’ve had three good chances, four if you count fighting Gary Lockett for the WBU (middleweight title in 2006), but I can look back and say that my ambition growing up was looking up at Herol Graham and Johnny Nelson with their British titles, so that was always my ambition. I wanted to win the Lonsdale belt, won one to keep outright and not only that, I’ve also won the European title and fought for world titles — I’ve excelled what I thought I’d do in my career and I can handle that.”
As for his fondest memory, Rhodes still enjoys talking about that night in Bolton when Plan A went out of the window and he opted to stand and trade with Moore, who was on the cusp of a world title shot, the reigning EBU titlist and in fine form. It was a tough fight for both men. My overriding memory of covering the contest is the look of determination and focus on Rhodes’s face as he powered in the finishing shots to end the argument at 2:35 of round seven.
“There’s been a lot of memories, but if I had to choose one it would be the Jamie Moore fight,” said Rhodes. “I was a massive underdog in that fight, a lot of people thought Jamie would walk through me, and that fight got me the Alvarez shot, so it is a highlight.”
He added: “No one thought I’d be able to stand and have it out with Jamie. I didn’t plan on that type of fight, but that’s out it worked out and we got a British ‘fight of the year’ award for it. A lot of people didn’t know that I could stand and have it out, but I’ve always had that tough streak in me. I’ve also got the side of me that boxes clever and that has helped me last long because if I don’t need to be in a war then I don’t have them because of my style — my style prolonged my career.”
It has been a rollercoaster ride, but Rhodes can dig out his slippers, put his feet up and can now exchange Tweets, rather than bows, with his former title rival Moore safe in the knowledge that he brought a lot of excitement, glory and class to Britain’s 154lb scene.
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