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Boxing Preview: Saul Alvarez vs. Ryan Rhodes

Saul Alvarez is aiming to be Mexico’s next big boxing star. With a record standing in at 36-0-1 26 KO’s, he is well on his way.

He now holds the WBC Light middleweight title that was vacant when he fought Matthew Hatton for it a few months ago.

Beating Hatton, but becoming visibly frustrated with not being able to get the Briton out of there, it was a good test for the “Cinnamon Kid” who can do no wrong in the eyes of the nation whose boxing heroes are worshiped like gods.

Again, Canelo faces a British fighter, this time it’s “The Spice Boy”, Ryan Rhodes, tonight at Arena VMG in Tlajomulco de Zuniga, Mexico.

Rhodes 45-4-0 31 KO’s, is an experienced fighter, almost qualifying as a veteran. A product of the St.Thomas Gym, Wincobank, Sheffield, the same gym that produced Naseem Hamed, he's trained by the Ingles.

In fact, Rhodes and Hamed were best friends coming through the ranks together in their prime. They would often be on the same show and Naz would tell anyone who listened that Rhodes was equally as good as him, just a bigger version.

Their prime was of course about 12-13 years ago. Rhodes fights like a classic product of that gym; he is not conventional.

Using a lot of head and upper body movement, coupled with nifty footwork, he tends to get the opponent to open up and start firing before he tags them with clever counter punches from awkward angles.

This style relies heavily on reflexes, which is a young man’s tactic. As is so often seen with fighters who rely on reflexes, when they get older and their reflexes are naturally not as sharp as they once were, they usually have very little fundamentals to see them into their older years.

Generally it is even worse when they come up against very good fundamental boxers. Prime example is Roy Jones Jr, and a mirror parallel of a fighter who has excellent fundamentals is Bernard Hopkins, whose solid skills have seen him into his twilight years.

As mentioned, Rhodes was very good at this tactic…in his prime. He does still employ it, but obviously it is nowhere near as effective as it once was.

Rhodes has a good chin, he has been stopped twice before, but both were early in his career. Rhodes' KO ratio is 63%, so he can punch.

But we have to go back to the point that this is probably the last shot he will ever have at a world title.

Reports have it that he is in the best shape of his life, looking at pictures Rhodes does look very cut and lean. In fairness, he has not lost since 2006 when he was taken the distance by Gary Lockett and beaten on points. And he has kept relatively active since then, even having a great tear up in a domestic fight of the year contender against Jamie Moore in a European title win.

At age 34, with quite a few heavy tiresome fights behind him, Rhodes may be fit as a fiddle, and ready to go twelve rounds with the new champion, but his reflexes are not the same as what they were, and no amount of training can bring them back.

Plus he is facing a very strong, very complete fighter in Alvarez. Alvarez’s KO ratio is 70%, Rhodes is also going to Alvarez’s back garden for this fight, as it’s in Mexico. This should not be too much of an issue for Rhodes as he has been in the sport a long time and has fought away from home before.

Ultimately, Rhodes struggled with Jamie Moore in the early rounds and Moore is another come forward aggressive fighter, who has solid boxing fundamentals. Rhodes did well to weather the storm and come back to stop Moore but Alvarez will not be giving up those opportunities. Alvarez hits harder than Moore, and if he hurts Rhodes, he will finish it.

In Alvarez, Rhodes faces a younger, fresher, stronger opponent, who is fundamentally sound and an excellent finisher. Rhodes will have to be on form and moving all night, especially if he wants to take the title from the champion in his own back yard, he will have to fight the fight of his life.

Rhodes will probably be able to catch Alvarez, as Hatton did, but Hatton never troubled Alvarez with power, and while Rhodes can punch, it's not concussive, also Alvarez has never been in with someone who moves like Rhodes, the big doubt is whether he can move and fight off the back foot all night, whilst doing enough damage to Alvarez to take his title.

I cannot see that happening, Rhodes will be valiant but Alvarez has too much. Alvarez will wear Rhodes down, and will probably stop him late in the fight.

About Nick Chamberlain

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