The Oltai Interviews: Ryan Rhodes
By Paul Oltai
At one point the Ingle gym in Sheffield was churning out talent after talent, helped by the boxing genius of the late Brendan Ingle. With notable world champions in the likes of Prince Naseem Hamed and Johnny Nelson to name but a few, but it is one of their best talents who didn’t quite reach the pinnacle of winning a world title who I had the honour of speaking to.
Ryan Rhodes aka The Spice Boy was one of, if not the best 154lb talents this country has produced and is still the current record holder for winning the Lord Lonsdale belt outright taking just 90 days to make 2 defences of the belt and getting to keep it. He battled with fellow Brit Jamie Moore in a barnstorm of a fight. He also held the European title and once challenged global superstar Canelo for the WBC super welterweight world title giving a valiant display against the hugely talented Mexican.
We had a chat about what life has been like outside of the ring since retiring in 2012.
So Ryan since retiring in 2012 what have you found yourself getting up to?
‘Well I set my own gym up 3 years ago and since then it has gone from strength to strength, I have been really busy with the pro’s. But the gym is not just a gym for the pro’s either we have the amateurs there as well and also is just a general fitness gym as well with around 230-240 members so it is going really well for a little gym. My philosophy is a bit like Brendan’s used to be in that everybody trains with everybody you know, unless the pro’s have a fight and they are doing their sessions first thing on a morning, but in the evening everyone trains with each other and helps to bring each other on.
‘When you are training alongside a pro as a younger less experienced fighter it can spur you on. I can remember from being younger and every gym will have a pro who everyone is watching and I can remember we had a guy called Dennis Afflick and Brendan used to get him to go in with the pro’s like Nelson and Graham and he could him them but they couldn’t hit him and he honestly used to try to take their heads off. We are similar in our gym, we have some older fellas who on sparring days will jump in with the pro’s and I will get them to hit the pro’s to the face and the pro’s can’t hit them back and honestly it is fun to watch.’
Do you ever jump in with the current pro’s for a bit of sparring then?
‘I do a little bit, I am probably not in there with them as much as I would like to be with us being that busy with everything going on you know I have always got someone to train, whether that is one of the amateurs or pro’s or even when I do a bit of PT stuff as well. I have always got something going on.’
So personally do you feel you get more satisfaction from training the amateurs or the pro’s?
‘You know I do help out with the pro’s, but also have a guy who is starting to take over with them called Steve Bailey who also has 15-20 years of the amateur side of the game as well so he is in charge of the amateur fighters we have. I also have a guy called Patrick Corrinnes and another guy who has just done his license called Clinton Hudson and them guys really look after the amateurs. I look more after the pro’s we have. But it is always nice to see any of them do well, we had our first amateur out last year and he won his first fight and it was great.
‘We only affiliated late last year as an amateur club so we are now pushing on. Having said that being involved with the pro’s you do like to make champions and that is what I am trying to do at the moment.’
Is there any names from your stable we should be keeping our eyes peeled for?
‘We have quite a few coming through at the moment you know, on the 16th March we have Sam O’Maison defending his English title in London against Kay Prospere. That will be a very good fight that one, then myself and Stefy Bull are doing a show on the 30th March and I have my lad Razaq Najib fighting in a Commonwealth title eliminator so we have got some good up and coming guys coming through.
‘Once we start producing more champions the rest will follow because everyone wants to train like a champ and be around champs. It inspires everyone around them. Sam isn’t far off fighting for a British title, we have struggled to match him for this English title defence then the board made Prospere mando for it so we are fighting him. Once he defends this time I really do think we are in with a shout for a chance at the British title.
‘I have only been a trainer for under 5 years now and I have had a British champion in Curtis Woodhouse, Commonwealth champion in Ross Burkinshaw and now an English champ in Sam and for such a short time I think I have done pretty alright you know.’
‘I retired from boxing at a pretty high level but then as a trainer I have had to work my way up from the bottom learning being a manager and a professional boxing trainer. I use a lot of what I was taught by Brendan because it was a winning formula so why change something that works? I have adapted and brought my own little methods in to have my own twist on it but for years and years the Ingle gym was churning out champion after champion and I learnt a hell of a lot.
‘But I have also got to say I also learnt a hell of a lot from Dave Coldwell as well. Just look at his gym at the gym he is absolutely flying and he started right at the bottom as a trainer like me. He worked his way up to the very elite level.’
Having such a gifted and talented past pro to talk to I couldn’t not touch on his past experiences having had so many great memories to delve into and share with us.
What would you say is your best boxing memory overall?
‘I mean i have got that many, like winning the British title at 20 years old in my 11th fight against Silkie (Paul) Jones who had just won a world title then got stripped of it. So when I won that British belt I had beaten a world champion for it, they only took his belt for politics. Then I went in with him and knocked him out in like the 8th round.
‘That was definitely up there with one of my best memories, then there is the Jamie Moore fight. Everyone wrote me off for that one and I went and pulled off the win. Then we have going to Mexico to fight Canelo. I know I didn’t get the result I wanted but not many can say they went 12 rounds with him can they and give a good showing.’
When you saw Lewis Ritson pick up the British title and start knocking people out the way he was did you fear your record was going to fall?
‘Yes mate I was sweating with that one, I thought flippin heck he is going to have my record here. Luckily when I won it you only had to defend it twice before you won it outright but now you have to defend it three times before getting to keep it. It would be difficult for anyone to do that in the same 90 days I did so I think am going to be ok with that one ha ha.’
Would you say looking back now you have any regrets on anything you did in boxing?
‘No, no I did more than I ever wanted as a kid. I just wanted to win a British title, growing up and seeing Johnny (Nelson) and Herol (Graham) and also Fidel from Nottingham being British champs had me thinking that was all I wanted to achieve. So with me doing a lot more I was more than happy you know.’
Would you have liked anything to have changed at all?
‘To win a world title definitely, I fell short on a few occasions. With the Otis Grant fight it was mainly down to experience at the time, you know it was one where I fought beforehand I was going to go 12 rounds here and I held back to much and in them last 3 or 4 rounds I had more left than I really needed and should have pressed on a lot more than I did.’
Who was your biggest inspiration?
‘I used to love watching Marvin Hagler growing up, I loved Mike Tyson as well but with him being a southpaw it made me love Marvin Hagler and he was the one I really looked up to.‘
If you where around now in the current scene how do you think you would get on?
‘I would be world champion without a doubt, without a doubt. Listen when I was about I did that well that they talked about me fighting the likes of Steve Collins at one time. The talent about then with the likes of Eubank, Benn, Collins and Henry Wharton them kind of middleweight fighters was crazy.’
What is the event you have going on with Tyson Fury at the moment?
‘We are doing a dinner with Tyson with like a meet and greet which I am looking forward to. At first last year I got contacted to do one with Billy Joe Saunders and that went really really well, sold loads of tickets for that. We had done a few pro shows and then did a few with Stefy Bull. Then November last year we got asked to do one with Thomas Hearns and that went brilliantly. So I am lucky enough I have a lot of support in Sheffield with great people who support me putting on events like Surefix Direct, Dutton Recruitment, Napoleono and CRS, so when I got offered the Fury one just after the Wilder fight it was a no brainer to me and it has gone really well and I am looking forward to it.’