Thursday, October 22, 2009

British Scene: Jamie Moore vs Ryan Rhodes Preview

Dave Oakes previews Friday night's SKY show featuring a 154 pound match-up between European title holder Jamie Moore and challenger Ryan Rhodes. Also on the card are two British title match-ups, with Gary Davis defending his bantamweight crown against Ian Napa and Chris Edwards putting his featherweight belt on the line against challenger Shinny Bayaar.

Being called the most entertaining fighter in Britain should be taken as a big compliment but for Salford’s Jamie Moore, it isn’t enough, he feels the time has come to stake a claim for being the best fighter in Britain. He starts this Friday at the Bolton Arena with an intriguing European title defence against former world title challenger Ryan Rhodes, with the winner becoming the mandatory challenger to WBC champion Sergio Martinez.

Moore has been desperate to step up to world title level for the past three or four years and is now about to dip his toe into it against the seasoned and dangerous Rhodes. This will be Rhodes (42-4 KO 28) biggest fight since the one year hiatus he took following his defeat to Gary Lockett in the summer of 2006. Rhodes’ career has been one of many ups and downs; he made a blistering start to his career, winning the British light middleweight title in just eleven fights, becoming one of the youngest ever title holders in its history (he’d only just turned 20) before failing in an ambitious attempt at a world title up at middleweight a year later.

The decision to move Rhodes up to middleweight so early in his career is one that still leaves me baffled. He was finding it hard to make the light-middleweight limit but had been doing so without it taking anything away from him, he certainly wasn’t looking weight drained. I believe his camp thought that Otis Grant was very beatable but that decision backfired when Rhodes was out-pointed by the tough Jamaican. I know that Rhodes himself has said that he moved up because he was struggling to make light-middleweight but you have to question the validity of that statement when you consider he can still make the weight now.

The defeat shouldn’t have had a detrimental effect on Rhodes’ career, I’m a great believer in the theory that a loss can sometimes make a fighter. Unfortunately for Rhodes, he suffered another defeat just eighteen months after his first loss, this time for the interim WBO middleweight title. It was in far more brutal fashion though; Jason Matthews knocked him out inside two rounds and almost destroyed Rhodes’ career.

A less than focused Rhodes then treaded water for years, facing journeymen opponents and failing to live up to the reputation he’d made when claiming the British title at such a young age. Even another shock knockout defeat wasn’t enough to fire him up; he looked totally disinterested with the sport when Lee Blundell stopped him in the third round of a fight in which Rhodes should’ve won with ease.

The turning point in Rhodes’ career came after his last defeat, a points loss against Gary Lockett just over three years ago. Rhodes seemed to be regaining his hunger in the four fights he had before facing Lockett but I sensed he rediscovered his confidence after running Lockett close on the scorecards. It was almost as if he realised that he could still be a champion if he fully dedicated himself again.

He regained his British title in 2008, nearly 12 years after first winning it, destroying Gary Woolcombe in brutal fashion. Woolcombe was the defending champion and the betting favourite going into the fight but Rhodes out-boxed him before producing a spectacular finish, knocking him clean out in the ninth round. The victory has definitely been the best performance of the second part of his career; he followed it up with good victories against Jamie Coyle and Vincent Vuma, as well as a routine knockout win over Janos Petrovics in his last fight to confirm that he’s back to his best.

Moore is also no stranger to the ups and downs of professional boxing, he’s suffered three defeats in his career (32-3 KO23) but has comeback from them well each time. It has to be said that his disqualification loss to Michael Jones was very debatable (Moore has two wins over Jones as well as the defeat), and the knockout defeat to Ossie Duran was as much to do with a hip injury rather than any punch Duran landed.

Everyone in Britain knows Moore as being an all action fighter but I feel his technical ability is often overlooked because of his aggressive style. The way he was catching and rolling away from punches in his war with Matthew Macklin was very impressive. He boxed clever as well as trading heavy punches that night and the victory looks even more impressive now that Macklin has become a European champion himself.

Moore has been looking sensational of late, respected European level fighters Roman Dzuman and Michele Piccirillo were both blown away early, neither of them being able to match Moore’s strength and aggression. Moore looks massive for the weight and seems to be hitting harder than ever, he’s certainly showed that he’s now well above European level and should be confident of winning a world title if he comes through on Friday night.

There’s no doubt that Rhodes will be the hardest test of Moore’s career, his switch-hitting style could cause Moore some problems and he has a wealth of experience to draw from. Despite the knockout defeats on their records, both fighters have solid chins, both also have respectable punch power and both firmly believe they’ve got the beating of each other. It has all the makings of a very good fight.

I can see Rhodes being very cagey early on, looking to counterpunch Moore rather than trading with him. Moore will be made to work hard to land clean punches but I think his size, strength and body punching will eventually take its toll on Rhodes. I wouldn’t be surprised if it went the distance but I’ve got a feeling that Moore will want to make a statement and stop him. I think Moore will have to be on top form to do so but I believe he’ll get a late stoppage win.

The Undercard...

The undercard sees two British title fights. Gary Davies defends his bantamweight title against Ian Napa, whilst Chris Edwards defends his flyweight title against Shinny Bayaar.

The fight between Davies and Napa should be an entertaining fight. The improving Davies is coming in off the back of two impressive victories, his second round destruction of Martin Power and his seventh round stoppage of Matthew Edmonds.

Davies is an aggressive boxer who hits very hard; he also has considerable height, reach and strength advantages over Napa. This won’t be anything unusual for the diminutive Napa but he must improve on his last outing if he wants to regain the British title he vacated a couple of years ago.

Napa looked like a fighter on the slide last time out when he lost his European title to Malik Bouziane. He didn’t have an answer to anything Bouziane did and allowed himself to be outworked on his way to a wide points defeat.

It could be that Napa just had a bad day at the office and will be back to form in this fight, but one thing is for certain, if he loses this fight, he won’t have many options left afterwards and would have to consider hanging his gloves up.

I think that could spur Napa on to victory, he’ll be determined to erase the memory of the Bouziane performance from his mind. Napa has always relied on his speed and skills; if he is on the slide then it could prove to be a very hard fight for him because Davies won’t take a backwards step all night. If Napa’s still got something left in the tank, which I believe he has, I think he should be able to outbox Davies to win on points.

Chris Edwards v Shinny Bayaar is an interesting match up. Bayaar has been disappointing so far in his career, losing four times in eighteen fights, usually when he’s tried to step up in class. He’s a hard fighter who looks to have a rock solid chin but unfortunately he doesn’t have much else in his arsenal.

Edwards is a much better fighter than his record (13-13-3) suggests but is no world beater by any stretch of the imagination. He likes to swarm all over his opponents, trying to grind them down with body shots. He doesn’t punch particularly hard but can sicken opponents with his relentless attacks.

I think this fight will undoubtedly go the distance, the early rounds will be close but Edwards’ better fitness and hunger will help win the late rounds to take a wide points decision.

e-mail Dave Oakes