Ryan Rhodes dominates to keep European belt

Ryan Rhodes had no trouble today against Luca Messi. (Photo via Sky Sports)

As expected, Ryan Rhodes had absolutely no trouble in disposing of Italian challenger Luca Messi, as Rhodes stopped Messi in the sixth round to retain his European junior middleweight belt.

Rhodes (44-4, 30 KO) knocked Messi down in the first, again in the third, and with a body shot in the sixth. Messi (36-8-1, 12 KO) got to his feet every time, but Rhodes closed the show just moments after the sixth round knockdown, with referee Manuel Oliver Palomo mercifully stepping in to put an end to the complete mismatch.

As we detailed in the fight thread below, Messi really had no business challenging for the European title. Sky's Jim Watt did his best to convince the audience that Messi was a tough customer and shouldn't be taken lightly, but his written preview was far more realistic.

Messi's recent opponents haven't been very good and they have obviously been looking after him to try and manoeuvre him into a title fight, which they've managed to do.

If Messi was good enough to beat Ryan Rhodes we would have seen that by now - he is 35 - and we would be raving about him, but we're not.

It's not even just that there's nothing to rave about, but at this level, there's nothing to even take seriously. We discussed that record of his earlier. His recent opponents weren't just "not very good," they were total tomato cans. 69% of his wins are over guys who didn't even have .500 records, and another fair amount of those wins were against fighters who were barely .500, and then the rest of them were against fluffed records. He's never beaten anyone. His status as European title challenger says a lot about the European titles, and a lot about how easy Hatton Promotions is making it for their fighters to get or retain title belts.

There was plenty of talk on the broadcast of Rhodes taking on a world title challenge in the near future. He's as ready as he's ever going to be. But let's not confuse the likes of Luca Messi and Vincent Vuma with world-class opposition. The major belts at 154 right now are held by Yuri Foreman (WBA), Sergio Martinez (WBC), Cory Spinks (IBF) and Sergiy Dzinziruk (WBO). Interim belts are held by Alfredo Angulo (WBO) and Nobuhiro Ishida (WBA).

I am not meaning to say I don't think Rhodes is a good fighter. He is. I think he'd beat Ishida, be a fair challenge for Spinks and Foreman, and maybe even give Angulo trouble if he boxed smart. Dzinziruk and Martinez are probably out of his reach, but Dzinziruk isn't getting any younger, either.

But you can't fully judge whether or not he's really ready for a fight against any of those guys -- save for Ishida, perhaps -- on results like today's. BoxRec's rankings aren't the greatest in the world for the top shelves, but they do give a general idea about where the rest of the world's majority is at, and Messi came in ranked 175th at 154 pounds. There is a universe between Messi and the top fighters in the division, one of which I feel is Ryan Rhodes, and it showed today.

I hope Rhodes does take the leap, though. He's a good fighter, works hard, is a nice guy, and fights in an entertaining style. And I don't need to see him beat up on the likes of Luca Messi anymore.

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