Rhodes hopes for better luck with champion Hatton at his side

RYAN RHODES has received tips from legend Ricky Hatton as he prepares for his world title fight in Mexico against Saul Alvarez.

For the veteran Sheffield boxer, who contested his first world title belt 14 years ago, has never boxed outside Great Britain in a rollercoaster career which has seen him crowned British and European champion.

Since his second-round knockout of Lee Crocker in Cardiff in 1995, 34-year-old Rhodes has stepped into the ring at high-profile venues like the Millennium Stadium, O2 Arena and Wembley (albeit the conference centre).

But Rhodes has never boxed outside of these shores, so his fight in Guadalajara tonight against unbeaten Mexican star Alvarez, 20, means a trip into unchartered waters.

He jetted out last week for 18 days of altitude training and believes the advice of former world champion Hatton – his  fight promoter – will help him aclimatise to the soaring heat and foreign conditions.

“I have never boxed abroad so it’s all going to be new,” said Rhodes. “I have spoken a lot with Ricky. With his experience fighting abroad and fighting for major titles, he has been a massive help with his knowledge.”

Unbeaten in 37 professional fights, Alvarez (36-0-1, 26 KO’s) has been the biggest story to hit the boxing scene in years, and the fight for the WBC light middleweight title will bring a lucrative pay-day for one of boxing’s flag-bearers, Rhodes.

The southpaw fighter lost in his three previous world title bids, all at middleweight – a WBO contest with Otis Grant in December 1997, when aged just 21 he lost out after 12 close rounds in Sheffield, against Jason Matthews for the interim WBO title in July 1999 and a WBU bout against Gary Lockett in July 2006.

But Rhodes has won 10 fights in a row in a run now stretching back five years, and the Alvarez bout will be reward for his loyalty to the sport.

“I have never walked away from the game. Meaningful fights have never really happened for me, but I have always believed in myself and knew that if I kept on persevering, my time will come.

“The experience I have got is massive now and compared to Alvarez, he has not had the fights that I have had. I have been in those difficult fights. They have matched Alvarez with a lot of kids and names that are just past their best. I have waited a long time for this opportunity and I intend to take it with both hands. I respect Canelo as a fighter and I know he is an exciting prospect, but he has never fought a super welterweight as good or as experienced as me and I fully intend to bring the belt back to England.

“I have had a fantastic career, the last two years in particular have been fantastic, winning the British title and breaking into the top 10. I have been waiting patiently for my world title shot and now it’s here. I am very confident. He is 20 years old and I will be the strongest boxer this kid has ever fought.”

Rhodes has been under the wing of Rotherham trainer Dave Coldwell for the last six years, but he is from a long line of Sheffield boxers who have flourished under legendary trainer Brendan Ingle and his Wincobank set-up.

From Herol Graham, to Johnny Nelson, to Clinton Woods and to Naseem Hamed, the Steel City has a rich pedigree in the boxing world.

“Most of the boxers that came out of the Ingles have done well,” said Rhodes. “Brendan was a really good trainer.

Hatton saw at close quarters what Alvarez is capable of, although he believes there are chinks in his armour after he fended off brother Matthew’s challenge for the vacant light-middleweight crown in March.

“My brother Matthew showed that Canelo can be hit, but unfortunately that night, he just was not big enough” admitted Hatton. “I expect that Ryan, who is a natural super welterweight, will come through and become Hatton Promotions’ first world champion.”

It promises to be a noisy evening for Rhodes in front of a partisan Mexican crowd, with Alvarez looking forward to parading his world title to his home fans.

“I am very excited that my first world title defense will be in Guadalajara,” said Alvarez. “I promise I will work hard to give all of my fans a great performance. Ryan Rhodes is a very dangerous opponent, but nothing will get in the way of me winning this fight.”