In the end there was nothing that Ryan Rhodes could do when World Boxing Council light-middleweight champion Saul Alvarez, backed by 15,000 fans in his hometown of Guadalajara, unleashed a savage series of punches in the 12th and last round to force the referee's intervention on Saturday night.
Rhodes, 34, was on his feet, bleeding heavily from a cut cheek, and only blocking half of the vicious punches that Alvarez poured down on his weary head and body. The referee's stoppage coincided with the tiny towel that Dave Coldwell, who has known Rhodes for about 20 years, had thrown in as a further sign of surrender from the Sheffield boxer's corner.
Alvarez, just 20 but with the humourless professionalism of a Mexican veteran, dominated the fight without taking any risks until the bell sounded for the final round. Rhodes tried to twist, turn and block the onslaught but, with his legs and heart suffering at altitude from the constant assault, he looked relieved when it was stopped.
"I watched his last fight and saw flaws but he was bigger, stronger and faster than I expected," admitted Rhodes, who had eight butterfly stitches acrossthe gash on his right cheek. "I found out that he had to lose 25 pounds to make the weight for his last fight; this time his people had him in camp at altitude for six weeks."
Rhodes will probably go back to the European title and wait for a gap or two at world level. Alvarez is gently being groomed and it is likely that during the next five years he will become a major player on the international scene. "I don't feel old and I don't feel like I've reached the end," Rhodes said. "Before this fight I had not lost in five years and I can still compete at an elite level – Alvarez is a very good fighter. It's that simple, no excuses."
On Saturday night Alvarez, professional at 15 and unbeaten in 38 fights, fought sensibly in controlled spurts and always seemed to finish his combinations with a short hook to the body. Rhodes often held back, trying to find a way to counter.
Rhodes had his senses in order at the end when Alvarez's body shots had slowly taken away his desire to fight on. "There was nothing else I could do – I couldn't keep him away," Rhodes said, which perfectly and honestly sums up the fight.