RYAN Rhodes is planning to bridge the age gap tonight by beating boxing’s latest young sensation to lift the WBC crown down Mexico way, writes digital editor Graham Walker.
There’s a 14-year difference between 34-year-old Rhodes and WBC world champ Saul Alvarez.
But Rhodes, who started out with the ring name Spice Boy - at the height of the Spice Girls back in 1995 - praised trainer David Coldwell and fitness conditioner Mark ‘The Robot’ Willie for getting him fighting fit and in the shape of his life.
VIDEOS: Press the play button to watch our latest Ryan Rhodes video report - then check out others on our web site, including a special message to fans and a video web chat from his Mexican hotel room.
The Sheffield fighter is one of boxing’s most dedicated athletes and has kept his body shape by training constantly during a 16-year career.
“I’ve been training twice a day, sometimes three times a day and I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in.
“If he thinks he’s facing an old man, then wait while he feels my power,’’ said Rhodes.
“I’ve been overwhelmed by all the support from back home and from Mexican fight fans - some of them also wanting me to win.
“But I want to thank Star readers for their messages. I’ll be bringing the belt for them, my fans and my family.”
Fitness guru Willie said: “Alvarez will be surprised by the power, speed and fitness of the person in front of him. He’s not going to believe the force of Ryan’s power.
“People will say age is against Ryan - but he’s trained wisely. He’s fitter, stronger and has the belief. Ryan has had a goal. It’s not just talent.
“It’s something he’s had to work at. He continues to surprise even me.
“I’ve no doubt that Ryan will return with the title.”
Rhodes isn’t relying on a points decision to take the WBC world title from Saul Alvarez in Mexico tonight - he’s vowed to knock him out.
“There’s only one way to win. I won’t let it go the distance. I’ve brought my own judges - meet K and O,’’ he beamed, holding up his fists.
Rhodes believes he will write himself into the history books in front of 15,000 screaming fans in Guadalajara.
Some boxing pundits - including Sheffield’s Johnny Nelson - expect him to return as champ.
“Alvarez looks set to become one of the greatest boxers on the planet over the next couple of years - but he’s not yet the complete article,” Nelson said. “There are holes in his make-up; this is the right time for Ryan to face him.
“Ryan is tough, he can throw knockout punches and he’s got the experience. He can box. He has every chance of winning.”
Rhodes added: “I’m at my peak now. I’m the fittest and most mature I’ve been. In the first two rounds I’m going to have a look at him. I’ve got to keep my cool and stick to my game plan - box him and make him miss. And when I make him miss I’ve got to hit him and hit him hard.”
Check back here on line for the big fight result and more in the early hours of tomorrow, Sunday, June 19 - Rhodes is due to enter the ring around 4.30am (BST).
The fight is being shown later by delayed transmission on Sky Sports 3 at 10am.
Buy The Star for a full analysis of the fight, reaction and comment on Monday.