ohn Ryder insists he is not “delusional” in believing he can be the first Briton to beat Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez when his steps into the lion’s den in Mexico on Saturday night.
Islington’s Ryder — at 34, Canelo’s senior by two years — is the Mexican’s chosen opponent as he defends his super-middleweight world titles the day after the country’s annual Cinco de Mayo national celebrations.
Facing a man widely appreciated as global boxing’s biggest superstar on his home turf, with seven Brits already vanquished by Canelo in the last 12 years, may appear to be a monumental task for a man with five defeats on his record, but the Londoner will not be overawed.
A poor 2022 saw Alvarez beaten by Dmitry Bivol, but he bounced back to edge old rival Gennady Golovkin. He has previously seen off Ryder’s countrymen Billy Joe Saunders, Callum Smith, Rocky Fielding, Liam Smith, Amir Khan, Ryan Rhodes and Matthew Hatton.
Ryder aims to end that streak. “If I say I’m extremely confident, people will say I’m delusional, but I wouldn’t be going out there if I wasn’t confident in my own ability,” he tells Standard Sport.
“I treat every fight as my biggest challenge. I used to get nervous for the first couple of fights I ever had, going in with journeymen. The thought of losing to someone like that was petrifying. Lose and you’re on a road to nowhere. I always go in giving my opponent the respect they deserve — and Canelo is no different.”
Boxing heads are looking beyond Ryder to a rematch between Canelo and Bivol, who inflicted just the second professional defeat of Alvarez’s 62-fight career in Las Vegas a year ago this weekend. Canelo, himself, is taking the threat posed by the southpaw seriously, but many still regard this as a simple route for the Mexican back to Bivol later this year.
“I’m sure people do see it as an easy fight, but I’m in there to go and make a statement and show people I truly deserve to be a world champion,” responds Ryder, for whom this is a chance to become a global champion for the first time.
“I was harshly judged on my defeat to Callum Smith in 2019 and I should already have been a world champion, but I’ve had a few more fights and picked up the interim title and got myself into a fantastic position.”
What awaits the Englishman in Zapopan, just outside his opponent’s birthplace Guadalajara, remains to be seen. He will not get an easy ride from a partisan home crowd, though. Fans will be there to see Canelo; Ryder is just there to be dealt with.
“It’s got to be expected, going in there against their hometown hero, in Mexico, on Cinco de Mayo weekend,” Ryder adds. “It doesn’t get bigger than that for the Mexican fans, does it? [But] when the bell goes, it’s just me and him in the ring. They can do all the spitting they want. They might give it that beforehand, but I’m pretty sure after the fight they’ll be cheering [me].”
Alvarez has looked past his prime in his last two outings, against Golovkin and Bivol. There are chinks in the armour of the great Mexican that the Tony Sims-trained fighter feels he can exploit. “He’s got a lot of miles on the clock, a lot of hard fights,” he says. “Last year was a tough year for his career. Now we have to see if he’s vintage Canelo or whether he’s not what he once was.”
The only rematch you’re having in September is me at the Emirates Stadium.
And the perennially under-rated Ryder believes the clash comes at the perfect time for him, having strung together four wins himself since that loss to Smith. You have to look hard for anyone who gives him a chance, with many bookies making Ryder a 9-1 long shot and the smart money resting on his opponent’s shoulders. He intends to make them look silly.
“There have been many times when I could have walked away, when I wasn’t talked about for big fights. But I’ve stuck it out and gone back to basics and taken the opportunities when I could get them,” he admits. “I’m at an age now where I know my body and what it can do. The timing is great for me. I’ve worked hard to get myself into the position I’m in now.”
Ryder cautions his illustrious opponent against underestimating him and says it will be him rematching Canelo in the autumn, once he has beaten him this weekend.
His 32-5 record will not intimidate too many inside the Estadio Akron, and support will be few and far between on fight night, but he does joke he “looks more Mexican than Canelo does”.
He warned Alvarez: “There’s massive talk of Bivol or (David) Benavidez, but don’t sleep on me — the only rematch you’re having in September is me at the Emirates Stadium. Win this fight and I’ll be a wanted man, for sure.”
John Ryder was speaking to promote Wow Hydrate, the sugar-free, low-calorie collagen, protein and electrolyte waters. wowhydrate.com