Sheffield boxing icon Ryan Rhodes - the five year journey from defeat to triumph

Ryan Rhodes - successful gym owner
Ryan Rhodes - successful gym owner

The month of June brings back some spectacular, if painful, memories to Sheffield’s Ryan Rhodes.

It was five years ago this month that the boxer was stopped by Siarhei Rabchanka in the seventh round of their EBU European super welterweight contest in Manchester.

Ryan in the ring with a 10-year-old Kell Brook

Ryan in the ring with a 10-year-old Kell Brook

It signalled the end of a memorable 17-year career of 46 wins and six defeats - but no world title.

Also in June six years ago, Rhodes had lost to the up-and-coming Saul Alvarez in Mexico as the disputed the WBC World super welterweight title.

His best chance of world domination ended that day in bitter disappointment.

This June, Rhodes can perhaps look back with a small degree of frustration on not ruling the world in his younger days.

Heady times, in 2012

Heady times, in 2012

But he can enjoy considerably more satisfaction over his general career, which saw him become British light-middleweight title twice, from 1996-1997 and in 2008, and land the European light-middleweight title from 2009-2010.

These days, the one-time ‘Spice Boy’ is running his own successful gym in Shalesmoor and is hoping to help land two English titles for his own professionals this year.

Sam O’maison is installed as mandatory challenger for the English title and Razak Najib will collect the English featherweight strap if he beats Samir Mouneimne at Doncaster Dome on July 1.

Reflecting on how he got to where he is today, Rhodes said: “I had felt something in my camp before the Siarhei Khamitski match (November 2011) was not right.

Ryan, when his gym was in London Road

Ryan, when his gym was in London Road

“My style was built around reflexes, getting out of the way and then throwing counter-shots.

“But timing was slightly out. In sparring I was trying to counter opponents but was a split second too late.

“I beat Khamitski but things weren’t right again in camp before Rabchanka. In sparring again against kids I knew I should be doing better.

“I was beaten by Rabchenko. I had too much respect for myself to carry on just for the money and retired.”

At that point, Rhodes had no plans to train pro boxers, but “sort of fell into it.”

First Curtis Woodhouse, then Ross Burkinshaw and Dave Fidler came knocking.

Then today’s generation came through the door.

He is now working with a team of pros along with 120 keep-fitters at his 26RR centre.

“It’s been a massive turn-around in the five years since I hung them up” said Rhodes, 40.

“And it’s been a big transition from boxer to trainer - apart from not taking the shots. I am as nervous and anxious for my fighters as I was when I was in the ring.

“A trainer is so desperate for his fighter to win. You know exactly what it means to them.

“And I worry about them like I did for myself - are they ready, fit and confident?

“When you are a fighter you have to be selfish.

“But its different training and managing. There is a lot of pressure on you- if something goes wrong in a big fight everyone looks at the trainer. We are the bottom line.

“All trainers have the ultimate aim of bringing a world champion through and I’m no different.

Going on that journey would equal the pleasure he felt himself being part of the Ingle team that featured Naseem Hamed, Bomber Graham, Brian Anderson and Johnny Nelson, he said.

O’maison is his most likely man to progress to that elite level, he says.

“If I’m honest I’d say his potential is very, very high indeed” said Rhodes.

“Hopefully Sam and the rest can go on and be successful.”

*FOOTNOTE: To lose to a boxer of the power and boxing ability of Canelo Álvarez is no shame.

Especially as Rhodes lasted a minute into the 12th round, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Álvarez has fought 13 more times since defeating the Sheffielder on 18 June 2011.

While he himself was beaten by the great Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2013, he also took the scalps of Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto and Amir Khan.

The Mexican’s next challenge is a huge one - taking on the man who beat Kell Brook at middleweight.

He faces Gennady Golovkin in Las Vegas on September 16.