At the witching hour on October 10, Lydell Rhodes woke up and conjured a unique way to celebrate his 28th birthday: The Las Vegas-based boxer ran a mile for every year he’s been alive.
“Every so often, I like to challenge myself and do random things to prove that I’m still hungry,” Rhodes says. “I thought, ‘What better way to do that than to wake up at midnight on my 28th birthday and [run] a mile for every year that I’ve been on earth?’”
So Rhodes slipped on his sneakers, dialed up a walking app on his phone and hit the pavement. By the time he returned home, darkness had given way to bright sunshine … and seven hours had passed.
“I ran the streets around the town of Summerlin and in North Las Vegas. There were a few hills along the way,” he says. “The first 20-something miles were pretty easy, but the last two miles took about an hour and a half.
“It was one of the the most mentally challenging things that I’ve ever done.”
As if completing a 28-mile run isn’t impressive enough, there’s this added wrinkle: Lydell Rhodes embarked on his grueling road trip less than three weeks before he was scheduled to push his body to the limit inside a boxing ring. On October 30, Rhodes (23-0-1, 11 KOs) meets fellow up-and-coming 140-pounder Sergey Lipinets (7-0, 6 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder from The Venue at the University of Central Florida in Orlando (Bounce TV, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
The relatively short gap between Rhodes’ birthday adventure and his fight with Lipinets wasn’t lost on “The Hackman’s” trainer.
“Lydell is very mentally strong,” says Chris Ben-Tchavtchavadze, a strength and conditioning coach for Floyd Mayweather Promotions. “If it was closer to the fight, I probably would have tried to talk him out of it, but I think he’s had enough time to recover from that.
“He’s like a sponge—always learning, focused, driven and a pleasure to work with.”
Rhodes’ impromptu marathon-plus was far from his most spontaneous decision. This is an athlete, after all, who agreed to make his pro boxing debut in early 2011 on a week’s notice while on hiatus from a fledgling mixed martial arts career.
A former high school football player and wrestler, Rhodes had a 30-fight amateur boxing stint in his native Spencer, Oklahoma, before relocating to St. Louis to work with such MMA notables as Robbie Lawler and Matt Hughes.
“I was home on vacation visiting my family. There was a guy that no one wanted to fight because he was tough and came forward nonstop, was in good shape and they knew it would be hard to beat him in a four-rounder,” recalls Rhodes, who was 24 at the time.
“I was asked to take the fight on a week’s notice and felt like I could beat anybody. But with all of my equipment still in St. Louis, I had to wear an uncle’s size 10 shoes when I only wear a size 8. I still beat the dude.”
Indeed he did, earning a unanimous decision over Jesse Comer by sweeping all four rounds on one judges’ scorecard and winning three of the four on the other two cards.
Afterward, Rhodes’ parents and an uncle advised him “to stick with boxing. They believed in me.”
Turns out rightfully so: Rhodes finished 2011 at 7-0 with four knockouts, and by the end of 2013, he was up to 19-0 with nine stoppages.
“My first promoter, Bobby Dodds, signed me right off the bat,” he says. “That changed my life. I progressed really fast, and it seemed like door after door started opening up for me. It seemed like the sky was the limit. I was hooked.”
Rhodes was 4-0 when he relocated to Las Vegas, teamed with Floyd Mayweather Sr. and won his next 14 fights, seven by KO. Rhodes parted ways with Mayweather Sr., won twice under Yoel Judah (father of former champion Zab Judah) and went 3-0-1 with two knockouts with a third trainer, Monyette Flowers.
Flowers guided Rhodes’ most recent fight in June: a split draw with Jared Robinson. At the time, Robinson was 15-2, the only blemishes being a fourth-round stoppage loss to unbeaten Amir Imam in February 2014 and a unanimous-decision loss to once-beaten Michael Perez in September 2014.
Now as he preps for the unbeaten Lipinets, Rhodes will have Ben-Tchavtchavadze in his corner for the first time.
“I’m confident in Chris. He's a stickler who’s always critiquing and tweaking my style,” Rhodes says. “The fewer my technical flaws, the lesser my chances of losing.”
For complete coverage of Rhodes vs Lipinets, visit our fight page.