Ryan Rhodes: “The boxing world will lose a lot of good quality fighters because of this pandemic.”
By Will Lott
It’s been a long time since fight fans had a boxing video game to look forward to. The last one being Fight Night Champion which was released in 2011 with EA Sports seemingly more focussed on their UFC series.
However, we can once again be excited with the game “Steel City Interactive” in the process of being created and former world title challenger Ryan Rhodes has had a big role in the game.
“A good friend of mine is a good friend of the director of Steel City Interactive and we arranged a meeting just to discuss his plans. They’d already been developing the game for around a year so it is over two years in development. I was blown by away by what their goals were and what their vision was. I was heavily involved straight away.”
With Rhodes being an ex-fighter and a current trainer, his links to the boxing world are strong and have come in extremely handy for the creators of the game.
“My role is getting as many fighters into the game as possible. Throughout the first lockdown I was heavily on my phone trying to get them involved. One of my best signings was Dean Sherriff at Empire Pro Tape. He provides the tape for I’d say 90% of the fighters in the UK so between us we signed so many fighters up and it’s snowballed and snowballed.”
As with the Fight Night series, Steel City want all-time greats involved and so far have managed to attract the likes of Roy Jones Jr and Sugar Ray Leonard.
“So many fighters are now contacting Steel City. They’re seeing how far along the game is getting and are begging to be involved now which is great.”
One huge name not yet secured is the pound for pound king Canelo Alvarez.
“We’d be crazy not to want to get him in the game but who knows. We’re doing our best to get the biggest names possible in the game and we can only do what we can do.”
A release date has been pushed back a couple of times as the fans still eagerly await confirmation.
“The lockdown hasn’t done us any favours. The Steel City guys are not going to release it unless they’re 100% confident it’s ready, not just because people are wanting it or people are giving the guys stick. I will say though, it will be released this year. This game is going to be about for many, many years. It’s not just a small project.”
Outside of Steel City, Rhodes owns the gym 26RR Fitness in the heart of Sheffield which is used by professionals, amateurs and the public. As a result of lockdown the gym has had to stay closed to the public.
“Before the first lockdown in March last year, my gym had over 250 members. The amateurs haven’t been able to train in lockdown. I’ve been keeping on top of them to make sure they keep as a fit as possible under the circumstances. I have been able to train my pros in the gym. They’re lucky enough to be signed up to a major promoter so they’ve been ticking over, sparring and just doing what they can.”
With the roadmap out of lockdown confirmed there is hope that we will see fans back in stadiums sooner rather than later.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel now. I’ve got a few dates at the end of the year for myself and Stefy Bull to be putting some good shows on. As small hall promoters, we need crowds to pay the wages for the fighters. Without fans we can’t really run a show without the backing of a TV company. I don’t want to be giving fighters false hope by saying you’ll be fighting on this date and then when it gets there we get told it can’t happen. We’ll be running shows at the Magna in Rotherham and Doncaster Dome.”
It is the small hall fighters and the ones just starting out their careers that will have been hurt the most throughout this pandemic.
“I know fighters that can’t carry on being a professional fighter. Small hall fighters really fight for nothing. They put in eight, 10 or 12 week camps and are fighting for making £1000 to £1500 which is less than minimum wage. As a result some have had to go and get regular jobs. The boxing world will lose a lot of good quality fighters because of this pandemic.”
With Rhodes’ gym being positioned in the town centre, the rent is unsurprisingly higher than most.
“The support you get from the government is only just covering my rent, not the bills. I still have to pay for the internet monthly so it’s been a tough time. Luckily enough I’ve been able to get through this. I’ve been training my pros four times a week which has been keeping me occupied and April 12th I can reopen the gym to some capacity.”
Things are definitely looking up and sooner rather than later fans will be allowed back into packed out stadiums for huge fight nights this summer. However, it is clear the impact the lockdown has had on small hall and part time fighters so I implore fans to attend those shows as soon as we are allowed back in.