Alan Dawson – London
Ricky Hatton’s stock as a trainer was enhanced on Saturday, June 16 as his junior middleweight from Minsk by way of Manchester - Sergey Rabchenko (21-0-0, 16ko) – showed a penchant for pressure, an ability to absorb a shot and an eye for a counter-punch as the undefeated 26-year-old out-powered former world title challenger Ryan Rhodes at the Velodrome in Manchester, halting the Spice Boy in round seven.
Official verdict: Rabchenko by way of 7th Rd TKO, collects EBU junior middleweight title.
“Listen, anybody… it doesn’t matter how many abs you do, if you get caught with a brilliant body shot it’s over,” said Rhodes (46-6-0, 31ko) to Sky Sports Two after the official announcement of his defeat. “I felt good, I knew he was strong, I felt like I was making him miss and pay. I wobbled him in the third round [sic: second round]. He has a good chin… I just got told I was 6-1 up on the scorecards but it was one of those things, it was the body shot. He’s got ten years on me [sic: nine years] but it’s nothing to do with age as I’ve been training with 23-year-olds in the gym.”
Nine years Rhodes’ junior, Rabchenko began the 12 round contest in positive fashion, occupying an aggressive stance, position and style while Rhodes boxed around the ropes, sending out southpaw jabs. The punches of the round, though, were all dispatched from the man from Minsk as Sergey cracked the Englishman’s jaw with a short-range uppercut at the midway point. This, punctuated with half jabs that set up the straight and flush left hands, saw Rabchenko collect the opening round.
Rhodes used his veteran experience to execute a swift turnaround and, by round three, he began to engage in what was shaping up to be a hot contest filled with heavy-handed blows. The difference between the two in the second and third sessions was that Rhodes’ punches were the cleaner while Rabchenko found the 35-year-old a frustrating opponent to pin down.
A wily counter-puncher with good punch resistance, Rabchenko was unfazed by Rhodes’ bigger shots in round five and was able to walk through them while setting up his own moves. Rhodes’ effectiveness had waned somewhat and the Russian found his ‘in’ and, in the subsequent stanza, Rab landed uppercuts, targeted the older man’s body and backed his man onto the ropes.
By the half-way point of the fight, Rhodes’ energy levels had lagged compared to what he had shown in the opener as Rabchenko’s unrelenting pressure had clearly taken effect. The pot-shotting from the home fighter was not on point as it had been and his fluidity was off.
With just moments left on the round clock and while Rhodes had landed a succession of clean shots, Rabchenko successfully countered Ryan and floored him for the first and only time in the bout. Rhodes was on his knees, grimacing in clear agony and, while he made it to a vertical position prior to the ten count, the referee refused to allow him to continue.
Considering his inability to establish himself at world level (losing out by way of late stoppage to Saul Alvarez) and now his failure to re-capture an EBU title in his favoured division, there will no doubt be question-marks over whether the road for Ryan has come to an end but the pugilist himself remains defiant: “Absolutely I’ll go on, this ain’t the end of Ryan Rhodes.”