By Terence Dooley
When Ryan Rhodes posted a third-round win over Craig Lynch at Manchester’s MEN Arena back in June 2005 it seemed to many in attendance, this writer included, that the man who shot to fame when winning the British title from Paul “Sily” Jones in only his 11th fight was eking out the embers of a once promising career.
Rusty and slow in the early going before applying the finishing blows, Rhodes looked far from even British title class that night going into the fight with Lynch on the back of a run of six wins since a 2002 third-round TKO loss to Lee Blundell.
A trio of triumphs after the victory over Lynch propelled Rhodes into a fight with reigning WBU middleweight titlist Gary Lockett — a decision defeat. It seemed the creaking Rhodes of the Lynch fight had stumbled into the Lockett encounter and was now officially a done deal.
However, it turned out that those mid-noughties reports of the Sheffield fighter’s demise were way off the mark as Rhodes hooked up with Dave Coldwell in 2007 and captured the British and European light-middleweight belts en route to a WBC world title shot against rising Mexican star Saul Alvarez.
Despite losing that one via a 12th-round stoppage, Rhodes and Coldwell decided to have another run at glory only to find Sergey Rabchenko equally determined during a June meeting that Rabchenko punctuated with an impressive body shot in round seven to win the bout and pick up Rhodes’s old EBU belt.
Still, the Rhodes and Coldwell axis can reflect on a job well done. The two men built on the foundations laid by the Ingles at their famous Wincobank Gym during Rhodes’s early career to bring about a memorable Indian summer for “The Spice Boy”, who upset the odds when beating British rival Jamie Moore for the European 154lb title in October 2009.
Rhodes’s determination and Coldwell’s tenacity worked well and produced a strong chemistry inside and outside the ring. Indeed, Coldwell was almost as upset as Rhodes when his charge announced his retirement last Tuesday afternoon. Other trainers in the British trade were quick to point to his involvement with Rhodes’s late-career bloom. Men such as Manchester-based coach Bob Shannon, who led the tributes to Rhodes, 46-6 (31), and his former trainer when speaking to BoxingScene about the former fighter’s decision.
“Good for Ryan,” said Shannon. “It was a tough decision for him to make because he looked good against Rabchenko then got caught. Ryan didn’t look out of place against the younger man — I put that down to him being such a great pro throughout his career.
“Ryan always had special talent. I first saw him at the age of 18 and I thought that this kid was going to set the world on fire, which is what I thought when I first saw Jamie Moore as a youngster as well — they were both special lads. Unfortunately Ryan never quite got the world title his ability deserved, but I think there was a lot of politics going on behind the scenes after Ryan won his title eliminator against Jamie, so that can sometimes hold you back.
“The great thing about Ryan, for me, is that he made a decision to team up with a great man in Dave Coldwell. They have been together through thick and thin. I wish we had a young Ryan in our gym at the moment, so tell him if he has a boy he can send him over to me so we can get the next generation of Rhodes fighters started. I hope he does good things in boxing or on T.V. now as Ryan is very intelligent when he talks about boxing.”
As for Coldwell, Shannon believes that the trainer, manager and promoter can sit back and reflect on a job well done after guiding Rhodes from the brink of obscurity to a genuine world title shot.
“People always knew what Dave was about, but he made a lot of people take notice when he brought Ryan into the win over Jamie,” said Shannon. “Dave is a real boxing man, he is as good as his word. Dave must have sat Ryan down years ago, told him what he would do and then did it — all Ryan needed to do was work hard and show that bit of loyalty to Dave. It is a great story for British boxing, and boxing in general. Dave can look back on Ryan’s decision with a bit of upset because of how close they were, but also with a lot of pride in what he did for Ryan. I wish them both the very best, whatever comes next.”
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