by Geoff Poundes
The Velodrome in Manchester, UK, plays host this Saturday night to two of England’s most prestigious performers when Martin Murray and Ryan Rhodes seek to put themselves firmly back in the world title picture after abortive assaults on international honours back in 2011.
Murray’s highly creditable attempt to dethrone Felix Sturn in November was one of the UK’s fistic highlights of that year – Murray was adjudged by many to have beaten Sturm that night, and to have gone one better than countryman Matthew Macklin, who had lost narrowly to the German earlier in the year. Murray remains unbeaten, with a 23-0-1, 10 KO’s slate, and he’ll be doing nothing more than tuning up when he takes on Frenchman Karim Achour, who’s 13-2-2, 2 KO record marks him as strictly a journeyman who’ll give Murray a minor workout as he prepares for more testing encounters.
Rhodes, meanwhile, has a far more demanding task when he contests the EBU light-middleweight belt with unbeaten Belrusian Sergey Rabchenko over 12 rounds. Rabchenko, 20-0, 15 KO’s is a puncher who’s had four of his last five contests in the UK since invading these shores in February 2011, and he might even be favourite to win against the veteran Yorkshireman Rhodes.
Now 35, Rhodes, 46-5, 31 KO’s, has only fought once since a heavy loss to wonder-boy Saul Alvarez a year ago, when he made a rare excursion overseas to the youngster’s homeland Mexico, and looked homesick and out of sorts when falling to a 12th round stoppage. He’s a different fighter on home soil, and before the Alvarez setback had begun to look like a man who would settle into a late prime. Schooled in the Ingle stable that spawned the likes of Herol Graham and Naseem Hamed, the formerly nicknamed Spice Boy has at moments in his long career demonstrated a special talent, and there’s no doubt that even now he’s a world class performer.
Rabchenko is at 26 years of age the up-and-comer, but despite some impressive wins in the UK over the likes of handy opponents like Bradley Pryce and Martin Concepcion, he’s not yet met anyone in Rhodes’ league, so that I expect the old-timer to give him a boxing lesson en route to a wide decision win.
On the undercard of the Ricky Hatton promotion, monster heavyweight Richard Towers, 13-0, 10 KO’s, makes a leap in class when he contests the EBU heavyweight title with Frenchman and previous challenger Gregory Tony, 17-2, 14 KO’s. The 6 feet 8 inch Towers has so far blown away all opposition, and has never gone beyond eight rounds, so if Tony can extend him for a few rounds things might get interesting. It’s more likely, though, that Towers will finalise matters within six rounds, and push himself into a crowded British heavyweight picture that already features David Haye, Dereck Chisora, Tyson Fury and David Price.