SAUL ALVAREZ vs. RYAN RHODES
When: Saturday, June 18
Where: Guadalajara, Mexico
TV: HBO Boxing After Dark, 10:30 pm. ET (live) / 10:30 p.m. PT (delayed)
Weight: Junior middleweight (154 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: Alvarez’s WBC title
Also on the card: Adrien Broner vs. Jason Litzau, 10 rounds, junior lightweight
Height / Reach: 5-9 (175cm) / 71 (180cm)
Hometown: Juanacatlán, Jalisco, Mexico
Turned pro: 2005
Record: 36-0-1 (26 knockouts)
Trainer: Eddy Reynoso
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: No. 9
Biggest victories: Carlos Baldomir, Sept. 18, 2010, KO 6; Lovemore N’Dou, Dec. 4, 2010, UD 12; Matthew Hatton, March 5, 2011, UD 12 (won vacant title).
Draw: Jorge Juarez, June 17, 2006, PTS 4
Height: 5-8½ (174cm)
Hometown: Sheffield, England
Turned pro: 1995
Record: 45-4 (31 knockouts)
Trainer: Dave Coldwell
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: No. 4
Biggest victories: Paul Jones, Dec. 14, 1996, TKO 8 (won British 160-pound title); Gary Woolcombe, April 18, 2008, KO 9 (won British 154-pound title); Vincent Vuma, Nov. 15, 2008, UD 12; Jamie Moore, Oct. 23, 2009, TKO 7; Luca Messi, May 21, 2010, TKO 6 (European 154-ound title); Rocky Junior, Dec. 4, 2010, TKO 2 (most-recent fight).
Losses: Otis Grant, Dec. 13, 1997, UD 12 (for world title); Jason Matthews, July 17, 1999, KO 2; Lee Blundell, March 13, 2002, TKO 3; Gary Lockett, July 8, 2006, UD 12.
Skills: Alvarez and Rhodes are versatile boxer-punchers who can stalk-and-punish or stick-and-move depending upon the situation. Both fighters are accurate punchers (especially with their jab) and counter-punchers with good timing. Alvarez, the better combination puncher of the two, seems more at home stalking and exchanging shots but he can move effectively. Rhodes, the fighter with the more fluid footwork, seems more adept at hit-and-move tactics. The British veteran often switches his stance (from right-handed to southpaw) during his fights, which throws off some opponents and helps him set up his offense.
Power: Alvarez, who has stopped a little over 70 percent of his opponents, is known for his heavy hands, but it should be noted that he fought mainly at welterweight prior to May of last year. The young Mexican does not possess one-punch KO power. He generally wears his opposition down with pressure, combination punching, and a mean body attack. Rhodes, who turned pro at middleweight and has fought as heavy as 169 pounds, has stopped a little over 60 percent of his opponents but he’s used to whacking out much bigger fighters than Alvarez has faced. His hand speed and the odd, unpredictable angles that he launches some of his punches from contributes to his ability knockdown and KO opponents.
Speed and athletic ability: Alvarez is a strong, all-around athlete who possess good power and better-than-average speed and reflexes. However, Rhodes is faster, despite being the older and naturally bigger man. The switch-hitter has quicker reflexes, better balance and superior hand-eye coordination. In short, Rhodes is a little more dynamic than Alvarez.
Defense: Alvarez is not your typical aggressive Mexican warrior who happily wades face-first into his opponent’s punches. He keeps his hands up, blocks well, and isn’t embarrassed to take a step back when he needs to. However, his defensive prowess doesn’t remind anyone of Salvador Sanchez or Miguel Canto. The 20-year-old titleholder can be hit and he’s often tagged by quick jabs and well-timed left hooks. Rhodes is comfortable fighting with his hands down, which leaves his chin open for an accurate puncher, but he isn’t easy to catch because his head and upper body are always in motion if his feet aren’t moving. Rhodes expertly leans away from punches and he does a good job of tucking his chin behind his lead shoulder.
Experience: Despite turning pro when Alvarez was four years old, Rhodes has only fought 10 more rounds (235 to 225) than the young phenom. Both men fought their first scheduled 12-round bouts ridiculously early in their pro careers. Rhodes did so in his 11th pro bout, when he won the coveted British title. Alvarez did so in his 15th pro bout when he won the Jalisco state title. Both have fought the 12-round distance four times. Alvarez has faced three major titleholders (Carlos Baldomir, Miguel Vazquez and Lovemore Ndou). Rhodes has fought one (Otis Grant). However, it should be noted that Vazquez, a current lightweight beltholder, was not suited for the heavier weights he fought Alvarez at, and Baldomir and Ndou were both pushing 40 when they fought the up-and-comer. Grant, however, was a talented, natural middleweight who was in his physical prime at the time he faced a still-green Rhodes.
Chin: Alvarez has never been down or stopped but he was badly rocked in the first round of his fight with Jose Cotto (by a left hook) last May. He recovered quickly, however, and scored a flash knockdown in the next round before wearing the veteran down to a ninth-round stoppage. Rhodes has been stopped twice, by Jason Matthews (KO 2) and Lee Blundell (TKO 3), both of whom were solid fighters at the time (1999 and 2002). Rhodes’ chin has held up well since the Blundell fight, a span of 21 bouts, which includes matches with heavy handed Gary Lockett and Jaime Moore. It should also be noted that Rhodes is used to getting hit by heavier fighters than Alvarez has faced on average.
Conditioning: Rhodes’ dedication to boxing was questioned in the late 1990s and early part of the last decade, but he has clearly recommitted himself to the sport since his loss to Lockett in 2006. He has to be in supreme condition just to make the junior middleweight limit. Alvarez, who likes to come on strong in the late rounds of his fights, is usually in excellent shape, but he admits to having been less-than 100 percent for the Hatton fight. He spent a month in Big Bear, Calif., training at 7,000 feet and sparring with middleweight standout Gennady Golovkin, in preparation for the Rhodes fight.
Wear and tear: Neither fighter has taken an extended beating, but having spent 16 years in the pro ranks has to have taken a toll on Rhodes' 34-year-old body.
Corner: Rhodes’ trainer, Dave Coldwell, a former flyweight journeyman, has done an excellent job refining the foundation built by the fighter’s first coach, Sheffield legend Brendan Ingle. Rhodes is exhibiting the best form of his career and Coldwell is definitely a factor in the veteran’s recent resurgence. Alvarez’s trainers Jose and Edison “Eddy” Reynoso guided the careers of former titleholders Oscar Larios and Javier Jauregui. Eddy Reynoso currently trains three-division belt holder Koki Kameda. The father-and-son trainer/manager team have coached Alvarez since he began seriously training for boxing at age 13.
Outcome: The veteran challenger’s fluid lateral movement and jabs delivered from alternating orthodox and southpaw stances will frustrate Alvarez in the early rounds of the bout. The young titleholder will patiently stalk his opponent who tries to catch him with pot shots whenever he plants his feet. The two will exchange punches whenever Rhodes maneuvers near the ropes. Alvarez will score to the body but the older man will land hard counter shots that back the younger man off. Alvarez will step up his pressure in the middle rounds and successfully cut the ring off on the Brit. However, he’ll find that Rhodes is able to slip most of his punches, even when delivered in bunches. When Alvarez least expects it the veteran will explode off the ropes with a left cross-right uppercut combination that rocks him back on his heels. Alvarez will backpedal out of the danger zone on wobbly legs as Rhodes goes for the kill. Although still clearly buzzed, Alvarez will remain calm and focused as he blocks and leans away from Rhodes’ swinging follow-up shots. The Mexican favorite will even fire back before the end of the round. Rhodes will press the attack in the following round as Alvarez continues to move while he recovers. They will trade punches whenever in range. Alvarez will land more during the exchanges but Rhodes will snap the youth’s head back with fast jabs and single power shots. Alvarez will catch a second wind in the late rounds and surprise Rhodes with an left uppercut-hook to the body combination that stuns the Englishman in his tracks. Rhodes will wisely tie up Alvarez and survive the round but he will visibly slow down during the championship rounds. Alvarez, spurred on by 15,000 “Can-e-lo” chanting fans, will finish strong although he won’t be able to stop his tough challenger.
Prediction: Alvarez by close, perhaps majority decision.