Ryan Rhodes, seen here in 1997, has retired from boxing following an eventful 17-year pro career. (Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images)
Former European and British junior middleweight champion Ryan Rhodes has retired from boxing, ending a 17-year professional career that had more than its share of ups and downs along the way.
The Sheffield southpaw, known as "Spice Boy" in his younger days, turned pro at age 19 in 1995, easily winning his first ten bouts before challenging for the vacant British 154-pound belt in December 1996, just about a month after his 20th birthday.
That night in their shared hometown, Rhodes stopped veteran Paul "Silky" Jones in the eighth round to become the new champion. It was his first real high in the ring, and he'd defend the title twice. But in 1997, he moved up to the middleweight division, and at 16-0, he got his first world title shot, facing Otis Grant for the vacant WBO middleweight title in December 1997.
Despite hometown advantage, Rhodes dropped a fight for the first time in the pro ranks, with Grant winning by unanimous decision. That was the first low, and definitely not the last.
After three wins following the loss to Grant, Rhodes was knocked out in two rounds by Jason Matthews in a fight with the interim WBO middleweight title at stake. Obviously, the WBO wanted Ryan Rhodes front and center, but it just wasn't happening.
After six easy wins, Rhodes was stopped in three by Lee Blundell in 2002. He wouldn't fight for 13 months, and his return to the ring was very cautious, with ten tune-up bouts before he dared to venture in against Gary Lockett in 2006. Lockett won a decision in Cardiff, and it looked for all the world as if Rhodes, once so promising, would never get over the hump.
However, in 2008, Rhodes knocked out Gary Woolcombe to regain the title he'd first won 12 years earlier, and went on a fine run. Arguably his finest moment came in 2009, when he and Jamie Moore put on a Fight of the Year candidate (we ranked it No. 6 for that year) in Bolton, a stoppage win netting Rhodes the European title.
Wins in 2010 over Luca Messi and Rocky Junior led Rhodes to another world title shot, this time at 154 pounds, in June 2011. Rhodes traveled to Mexico to face rising young superstar Canelo Alvarez. What was expected to be a tough test for Alvarez turned into a rout, as young Canelo overpowered Rhodes for 12 full rounds. In defeat, knowing it was possibly his final world title opportunity, Rhodes had nothing but praise for his foe, and predicted greatness for Canelo down the line.
Five months later, he bounced back with a win over Siarhei Khomitski, leading to a chance to regain the European junior middleweight title this year. His final fight was a loss, a seventh-round stoppage to Sergey Rabchenko in Manchester.
Rhodes was competitive in the fight, but Rabchenko crushed him with a body shot, and there was nothing he could do about it. "If you get caught in the right place with a body shot, it's over. And he caught me with a brilliant body shot," he said after the fight.
Rhodes, who turns 36 in November, said at the time he had no plans to retire. Obviously, that changed. And he's got good reasons to step away now:
‘I've got all my faculties intact and I think I've enjoyed a terrific career. I considered going on but I have to think about a lot of things. My daughters are 13 and 10 now and it's heartbreaking for me to see them upset after a fight hasn't gone my way.
‘I compared the positives to the negatives and the negatives outweighed the positives.'
Bad Left Hook wishes Rhodes all the best -- he was a memorable, likeable fighter who never let the bad times take him all the way down, and had a fine second run against the odds.
Here's the full Rhodes vs Moore fight from 2009: