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Boxing: Rhodes aware of his greater responsibilities

RYAN RHODES recently made the transition from Spice Boy to family man - and the extra responsibilities have changed him.

So much so that the former British light-middleweight champion may replace his `Spice Boy' trunks with less eye-catching garb against Mexico's Fidel Avandano - a replacement for original opponent Manuel Esparza - at Sheffield's Hillsborough Leisure Centre tonight.

Rhodes, 22, is the proud father of one-month-old daughter Ellie and, just like Naseem Hamed, he has become focused on the demanding aspects of life outside of the ring.

"I'm fighting for my family now. When a baby comes along you realise your responsibilities. It's amazing how that changes you," said Rhodes before the first defence of his World Boxing Organisation Inter-Continental middleweight title. "Everything I do is for Danielle and Ellie. I just want to win a world title for Ellie.

"It should be a harder fight than Esparza, but that's good news because I'm ready for anybody. When I get to the top I don't want people saying I dodged the best opposition in order to get there."

The promoter Frank Warren said that victory would secure Rhodes the No 1 place in the WBO ratings, and a second shot at Canada's Otis Grant. He was recently stopped by the World Boxing Council light-heavyweight champion, Roy Jones, arguably the world's best pound-for-pound fighter.

Rhodes came back from last December's first career loss to Grant to stop Hungary's Lorent Szabo in the eighth round to win the Inter-Continental title in July.

"I'm more hungry than ever for success," Rhodes said. "I learned a lot from the Grant fight. Getting beat did me a lot of good."

Avandano's ambitions of winning a senior world title may be over at the age of 27, after a 57-fight tally, though he has lost only to some of the best. Last March, Avandano went the distance with America's 1996 Olympic gold medallist, David Reid.

He has also tackled the WBO champion Sammy Fuentes, the classy American Roger Mayweather and the International Boxing Federation light-middle holder Yori Boy Campos.

His defeats against the higher quality opponents have come early, so Rhodes may go all out for a quick finish. It seems more likely, though, that Rhodes may have to go the full 12 rounds to keep his title.