YOU wouldn’t want to mess with this lot, some of the hardest men and biggest names in boxing - who left Sheffield great Ryan Rhodes knocked out with their tributes, writes Graham Walker.
The top-table line-up at his Cutler’s Hall testimonial dinner featured world, European and British all-time greats, including Ricky Hatton, Carl Froch, Herol “Bomber” Graham, Johnny Nelson, Jamie Moore and Big Joe Egan.
TV star pal Will Mellor, boxing promoter, manager and trainer David Coldwel and Ryan’s conditioner Mark Willie were also there.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch our video report, including chats with Ryan and tributes from the stars.
Ryan, aged 36, who won every title apart from the world crown, which he fought for three times, told The Star: “I’m honoured to be thought of so much in the boxing world - I’m overwhelmed.
“I want to be remembered as the kid who gave it his all and did his best.”
Just a week after losing his comeback fight and confirming his own retirement, former WBA, IBF, IBO and WBA champ Ricky Hatton, 34, said: “Ryan epitomises everything good about boxing and he’ll be an inspiration to youngsters who will try to do what he did.
“Herol Bomber Graham was one of the best British fighters not to win a world title. You have to put Ryan in that bracket.”
Herol, 53, said: “Ryan will leave a big legacy. He’s been great for boxing.”
IBF super-middleweight champion Carl Froch, 35, said Ryan had inspired him.
“He was flamboyant and confident. He wasn’t arrogant. He did a back somersault when he won and he brought excitement to the sport. He always impressed and looked good,” he said. “He worked hard and he’s dedicated. I draw a bit of inspiration from that.”
Johnny Nelson, 45, ex-WBO cruiser weight champion and now Sky TV boxing pundit, laughed: “He’s got a future. He’s going to nick my job.”
Big Joe Egan, Mike Tyson’s former sparing partner and now movie hardman, said of his pal, Ryan: “He’s been a great ambassador for boxing. A great fighter and a nice guy.”
In a reference to them being wrestling tag team partners, on a Bret “The Hitman” Hart bill in Sheffield, he added: “That was one of the best nights of my life. I was being strangled by one of the smallest wrestlers on the circuit. Ryan jumped into the ring and knocked him out, like my knight in shining armour. He saved me from being totally embarrassed.”
TV actor Will Mellor, 36, star of Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, said: “ I’ve been Ryan’s friend for years. I remember him when he was the flashy Spice Boy. He’s a warrior in the ring and a great bloke outside of it.”
Dave Coldwell, Ryan’s trainer in recent times, said: “He will be remembers as a fan’s fighter. He’s always got a smile on his face and time for his fans. But in the ring he would entertain the fans as well. The British public love him and so they should.”
YOUTUBE: Ryan Rhodes, with help from VIP guests including Will Mellor, Jamie Moore, Johnny Nelson and Mark Willie later entertained fans with their version of Mustang Sally. Watch courtesy of iFilmLdnProductions - CLICK HERE.