Boxing is a hard sport, many who enter the game do not see the glitz and glamour of the big nights on international television, the superstardom of the media and the massive world title fights. Many do not even make it out with their brains in the best of shapes which is why it is amazing to see Ryan Rhodes, who himself has been in many a war, have many different interests outside of the squared circle.
One thing Ryan has found to keep himself busy outside the ring is opening his own gym in the middle of Sheffield town center, 26RR fitness.
“It’s been going really well, it's a boxing gym but it’s also a fitness gym for everybody but we are mainly a boxing club, we do a lot of boxing exercises and boxing circuits and it gets me excited to get out of bed in the morning and go down to the gym and train someone and take them through circuits and I do a lot of personal training so yes it’s been very good.”
Ryan admits that going without the gym has been difficult.
“It has been weird, don’t get me wrong. It’s been fantastic to be at home with my girls, 2 daughters and my wife, but I think you can only do that for so long. Unfortunately, it’s not a normal life doing that, 99% of people get up in the morning, go to work and come home and that’s my routine.”
‘Spice boy’ admits that it has been a struggle to keep the gym financially stable during lockdown but refutes the idea of the gym being forced to close.
“It’s very frustrating because nothing is being said about gyms opening and I still have to pay bills and the gym is in the middle of town so you can imagine how much the rent is but we’re all in the same boat and you just have to get on with it, do what you can and stay safe.”
“My gym is a membership gym where people pay monthly so as soon as lockdown began I cancelled everyone’s membership obviously I’m not going to charge members when they can’t use the facility so the gyms making no money so yeah it has been affected financially, I will make sure it doesn’t have to shut down.”
Rhodes has also been involved in the production of a new boxing game partnering up with Steel City Interactive, news that will be music to many boxing fans ears.
“So, I knew some lads, Ash and his brothers from Steel City Interactive and they got in touch and we met up and they’d already been making this game for about a year and when they showed me what they’d done so far it was good at the time and now almost 4 months from that meeting believe me when I say it’s amazing how far they’ve come in only 4 months, it’s amazing.
“So they asked me if I wanted to get involved and try get some fighters involved to take it to another level. It’s been a big gap since the last EA Fight Night game and there's been a big demand for a new boxing game. Also, Eddie Hearn demanding it was music to our ears, and I’m so excited to be involved in something that the public really wants.”
Rhodes revealed that the game will have a good roster of fighters.
“From the moment we put that demo out we’ve signed up so many more fighters like you wouldn’t believe, we’ve had agents from the US of P4P stars getting in touch with us to try to get them in the game too, whether anything will come of that I don’t know but we’ve got trainers involved including Dave Coldwell & Ben Davidson as well as fighters including Sunny Edwards, Ricky Hatton, Frank Bruno, Kid Galahad.”
Ryan says the game will be out this year and expects the price to be affordable.
“It will be late November, when we first had the meeting it was estimated between £20 to £30 but now with who we’ve got involved it’ll be about £40, but with who we’re speaking to at the minute the big pound for pound names it may be even a little higher than that.”
Moving back into boxing in the flesh, Rhodes credits an all Sheffield clash with a British title win as the standout moment from his career.
“I was the youngest in 57 years to win the British TItle and I boxed a former world champion in Paul Jones who was also from Sheffield. Looking back, it was a pretty massive scalp on my record having beaten someone of his stature before fighting for a world title myself."
Rhodes then challenged for his first world title in 1997 against Otis Grant in Sheffield and talked about the amazing feeling of fighting for a belt in front of a home crowd.
“It was an amazing feeling to fight for a world title in Sheffield in front of my home crowd. I’d won the British title and won it outright in record time, won an IBF intercontinental and a WBO intercontinental and I was flying at the time. Brendan (Ingle) my trainer and manager & Frank (Warren) was my promoter at the time, and when I got the world title shot in Sheffield it was a dream come true.
Ryan lost the bout via decision but was not downbeat after the result.
“Don’t get me wrong, I was gutted but I’d lost a close points decision to Otis Grant who was a great, great fighter. I came out of that fight with a lot of credit and I think it was down to experience on the night, I think it was only my 17th or 18th fight and I'd only been pro for just over two years so it was down to experience and I learnt a lot about myself and going 12 rounds.”
Rhodes was to meet Jamie Moore for the European title in 2009 and came out on top in a fan friendly fight.
“I was a massive underdog in that fight, Jamie was flying at the time, knocking everyone out and was on the verge of fighting for a world title. I’d won the British title again and Jamie was European champ so it meant for a great British dust-up - war of the roses they called it. I think the fight speaks for itself, we won fight of the year, round of the year and I was proud I came out on top."
Towards the end of his career, Rhodes met a future superstar when he fought Canelo Alvarez for the WBC Super Welterweight title and Ryan says he could tell he was going to be a great.
“Even at that time he was Golden Boys superstar coming through he was only 22 years old at the time and from what I’d seen of him you could tell the kid had talent, was strong, fast and wasn’t a typical Mexican fighter, I went into that fight confident and thinking I could beat him. I trained the hardest I’ve probably ever trained and we went out there thinking we could beat him.
We got out there 3 weeks early to acclimatize and get used to the weather out in Mexico and I went into the ring with who I believed and afterwards said was going to be a superstar and now, nine years on look where he is now.
In the fight he had an answer for everything, in my style I could box, move, fight and counterpunch but like I said he had an answer for everything and we knew then he was going to be a superstar.”
Finally, we discussed Ryan's home city of Sheffield as a boxing city as well as the possibility of The steel city has always been a boxing city and Ryan says Sheffield will always have world titlists.
“It’s in a good position and we’ve always got a few champions in Sheffield, I know Kell coming towards the end and seems to be holding out for one or two fights, I honestly don’t think the Khan fight will happen, but there’s talks of Crawford which would be a massive fight and Liam Smith for Kell which would be a massive dust up for British boxing.
You’ve got Kid Galahad who’s number one for Warrington again now, there’s a few good kids fighting in Sheffield and it’s on a good roll here. There will always be a few champions from Sheffield because of the amount of great trainers. Look at the Ingle gym, that’s full of great fighters, Liam Williams, Billy Joe Saunders was down there for a while so there will always be big names in Sheffield.”
Ryan Rhodes is the true story of the underdog doing well. He may never have got that elusive world title crown but Ryan achieved his goal of British champion and has come out of a brutal sport with his mind and physical body in good stead whilst continuing to be involved in the sport.