Boxing: Rhodes has to answer tough questions after surprise loss

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The Independent Online

Ryan Rhodes will sit down with his manager and mentor Brendan Ingle today and try to find a way back from his disturbing defeat on Saturday night at York Hall, Bethnal Green.

Rhodes, 25, was stopped on his feet with his hands by his side in the third round by Wigan's Lee Blundell in the nominal main event and a fight that was supposed to be a safe warm-up for a world title challenge in May.

Blundell was knocked down twice in round two and looked set for a certain and predictable defeat, but Rhodes simply stopped throwing punches and moving his feet in round three, and was in danger of being hurt before the referee sensibly called a halt.

It was only the second stoppage loss that Rhodes has suffered in his 27 fight career that started way back in 1995, when he was just a 17-year-old apprentice. He is to marry in June and should take a few months off to assess his once promising but now ruined career.

The real attractions were the debuts of Nottingham's Carl Froch and Bermondsey's Matthew Thirlwall and their subsequent impact on the previously flawed BBC coverage of boxing.

Both won easily and now the BBC has a chance to correct 12 months of criticism over the quality of Audley Harrison's victims.

Last summer in Belfast at the World Amateur Boxing Championships, Froch won England's first ever medal in 32 years of competition, and on Saturday he easily stopped Birmingham's Michael Pinnock in round four.

Thirlwall also boxed in Belfast but he was beaten on points by the eventual winner Damian Austin, from Cuba, but on Saturday he needed just two or three punches to knock out Birmingham's William Webster in round one. Now the BBC has to agree a deal with the boxers' business manager Mick Hennessy and promoter Panos Eliades.

In Stuttgart, Vladimir Klitschko recorded a successful defence of his World Boxing Organisation heavyweight title, beating the South African Frans Botha by an eighth-round technical knockout.

The 25-year-old Ukrainian battled to break down Botha's determined defence and consistently showed more attacking punches. Botha, who was beaten by Lennox Lewis in 2000, stayed on his feet until the eighth round, but gave up after he fell to the canvas for the first time, climbing to his feet before cutting the scheduled 10-round bout short.

The win takes Klitschko's record to 38 wins in 39 fights, 35 by knockout, and means he has successfully defended his title four times. The bottle-blond Botha, who won a world title in 1995 but was later stripped of it for steroid abuse, gave eight inches in height to his opponent and failed to cope with the disadvantage.

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