Lydell Rhodes was frustrated after losing a unanimous decision to Sergey Lipinets in October, during which the “Hackman” fatigued during the later rounds and was penalized a point for holding.
With the loss, Rhodes was transformed from an undefeated rising prospect who in 2014 served as the primary sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao to one who was 4-1-1 over his past six fights under three different trainers. In essence, Rhodes—whose bout with Lipinets was preceded by a split draw with Jared Robinson last June—seemed to be losing his way.
“I was struggling mentally, a lot of negatives in my head, and I actually thought about doing something other than boxing,” he said.
But hope was restored earlier this year when he got a phone call from Pacquiao’s handlers, who had previously tapped Rhodes to spar with the legendary champion ahead of his second fight with Timothy Bradley Jr. in April 2014. This time, Pacquiao’s team requested his services in advance of the Filipino star’s April 9 rubber match against Bradley.
Rhodes, 28, spent nearly two months working with Pacquiao and renowned trainer Freddie Roach, with the final stretch at Roach’s Wild Card Boxing gym in Hollywood, California.
“Around Manny there’s an atmosphere of brotherhood and people having fun,” Rhodes said. “Manny’s aggression and speed had me constantly feinting, jabbing, slipping, moving and working on defense and composure under pressure.
“Freddie corrected my mistakes and thought highly of me, the turning point being when he said I’m always welcome there. I’ve trained there now for about seven months. I’m rejuvenated. I love boxing again, and my game’s at a different level.”
Exactly what that level is will be known Tuesday night, when Lydell Rhodes (23-1-1, 11 KOs) returns to action against two-time title challenger Edner Cherry (34-7-2, 19 KOs) in a contracted 132-pound bout at the Sands Bethlehem Event Center in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (Fox Sports 1, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Rhodes, who tipped the scales Monday at 132.9 pounds, will be fighting Cherry at by far his lowest weight since turning pro more than five years ago. His previous low was 135 pounds twice, the most recent time coming in April 2013, when he won a 10-round split decision over Yakubu Amidu.
He weighed 138 pounds for a six-round majority decision over Alejandro Rodriguez in April 2014 before competing at 145 two months later, when he gained a first-round KO of John Revish. Rhodes subsequently weighed 143 for his draw with Robinson and 138¾ when he lost to Lipinets.
Conversely, Cherry has fought between 129 and 134 pounds for his past dozen fights dating to late 2009, and checked in Monday at 131.7 pounds.
Rhodes, who is 5-foot-5, says he actually believes he belongs at the 135-pound limit, and the Spencer, Oklahoma, native—who has just two stoppage wins in his last eight fights—is convinced shedding weight will result in a power boost.
“Mindset is very important,” promoter Marshall Kauffman said, “and Rhodes believes fighting at a lower weight increases his power.”
Rhodes was 4-0 as a pro before relocating to Las Vegas from his hometown to be trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr. out of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s gym. Under the elder Mayweather, Rhodes went 14-0 with seven KOs.
After parting ways with Mayweather Sr., Rhodes won twice under Yoel Judah (father of former world champion Zab Judah), then went 3-0-1 with two knockouts with a third trainer, Monyette Flowers (including the Robinson fight). For his loss to Lipinets, Rhodes trained under Chris Ben-Tchavtchavadze, who will assist Roach associate Ernie Zavala against Cherry.
Zavala’s goal, according to Roach, will be to bring out the positive qualities Rhodes displayed when sparring Pacquiao.
“Lydell developed great defense, power and moved his head well against Manny,” Roach said. “Edner Cherry’s a pretty good fighter, but I think this is one Lydell should win. If he does, I’ll definitely help him.”
Like Rhodes, the 33-year-old Cherry is also coming off an October defeat, having dropped a split decision to 130-pound champion Jose Pedraza. It was Cherry’s second loss in as many world title opportunities, the other coming against Bradley by unanimous decision in September 2008.
In between, though, the Florida-based native of the Bahamas won 10 consecutive fights, seven by knockout. Which is why Rhodes knows he’s in for a fight Tuesday night.
“[Lipinets was] the bigger, stronger guy, but Cherry’s experienced and strong-minded,” said Rhodes, who will give away three inches to the 5-foot-8 Cherry. “You can box his ears off for nine rounds, but he’s still got power.
“Cherry’s jab can keep you guessing as he loads up on big shots. He’s never been stopped, so I’d like to be the first to do that and make a statement.”
Cherry, though, has designs on making a statement of his own.
“Rhodes is a great fighter, and I’m expecting a hard, 10-round fight,” he said. “I feel the Pedraza fight was taken from me. If I don’t knock out Lydell Rhodes, I’ve got to dominate and win big. I can’t leave it to the judges.
“I believe I can become a world champion at the lower weights, but that begins with Rhodes.”
For coverage of Cherry vs Rhodes, visit our fight page.