John Ryder endured an arduous road to a Canelo title shot, at the best possible time

Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez and English boxer John Ryder pose for a picture during a press conference to present their fight on May 6, in Zapopan,...

WBO interim super-middleweight champion John Ryder has insisted he hasn’t gone to Guadalajara, nor brought multiple team members with him, for a holiday before this weekend’s Mexico showdown. The 34-year-old has experienced an exhausting road to reach this point, but the timing couldn’t be any better to face the 168lb undisputed king Canelo Álvarez. Will it matter?

Ryder: Timing is right for me now

Mexican boxer Canelo Alvarez gestures during a press conference to present his fight against English boxer John Ryder on May 6, in Zapopan, Jalisco...
Canelo during last month’s press conference, ahead of his homecoming fight

Canelo Álvarez (c) vs. John Ryder for undisputed 168lb world titles
Estimated ringwalks around 4am BST, Sunday
Live on DAZN PPV in US, DAZN in UK

“It’s a great opportunity that has not been gifted. I’ve worked hard at this for years, suffered the highs, lows, the bottom of the barrel. I truly believe timing is everything in this sport, it waits for no man but the timing is right for me now.

2022 was the worst year of his career – lost to Bivol, then he didn’t look great against Golovkin when everyone expected him to blast him out of there… He also injured his wrist, had to have surgery. Now we’ll all see what he’s got left.”

Outside the UK, there’s probably a level of mental fatigue at this sort of matchup: Canelo Álvarez against another overmatched mandatory challenger, they presume.

Another British fighter, who’ll no doubt play his part as a spirited opponent for the sport’s biggest superstar to blast into submission on his return this weekend.

John Ryder’s being celebrated for earning a career-high payday against Canelo, and given all he’s been through, it’d be disingenuous to claim it’s not deserved.

But that’s not the point. Everyone has been itching for Canelo to face David Benavidez, moreso now that his career-best win over Caleb Plant in March.

WBC middleweight champion Jermall Charlo and even unified light-heavyweight king Artur Beterbiev have all been named as opponents the 32-year-old should face, rather than pursue avenging his Dmitry Bivol defeat in a rematch.

The aforementioned quartet are all unbeaten, current or former world champions and Benavidez is the only non-reigning titlist having lost his WBC strap twice in two years: after testing positive for cocaine, then for missing weight before a title defence.

Ryder by contrast, clinched mandatory status for Canelo’s WBO title in late November after the previously-unbeaten Zach Parker pulled out of their eliminator with a broken right hand at the end of round four.

Saul Alvarez of Mexico and John Ryder of United Kingdom attend the press conference ahead of their boxing match to be held on May 06 in Guadalajara,...

Playing devil’s advocate, is he the best in Britain? Maybe based on previous achievements and an extensive resume, but it’s unclear after that freak injury last year.

He’s lost five fights in a 13-year professional career, most recently UD12 against Callum Smith (Dec. 2019) on the eve of the COVID-enforced lockdown, and there is naturally a jaded feeling among many critics who feel Canelo has been gifted another soft touch before bigger future challenges.

Three of Ryder’s defeats (all decision losses, one via split) have come against opponents who fell short against the Mexican over the past six years.

Billy Joe Saunders got battered, Rocky Fielding stopped even quicker while Smith was firmly second best in a wide decision defeat. Ryder’s split decision win over Daniel Jacobs was disputed by many, but it goes without saying that he can’t afford to start so slow this weekend, against a heavily-favoured foe – wrist surgery or not.

He’s not in control of judging decisions, good or bad, and instead experience at the highest level has served him well, something he has readily acknowledged:

“I’d been lucky enough to box on Cinco de Mayo weekend on the undercard of Alvarez vs. Danny Jacobs in 2019 – sit there, really soak up the atmosphere, and on the undercard of his fight with Billy Joe Saunders in 2021, so I’ve seen what happens and to an extent know what to expect from the Mexican fans.

But this is Guadalajara, his hometown – the first time he’s boxed at home in 12 years – so it’s bound to be another special atmosphere. Like I’ve seen before, but multipled. 

I’ve seen it among the fans from the seats; being in that ring at the Akron Stadium on Saturday, just me and him, seeing all the fans outside is bound to be pretty crazy, but I’m looking forward to it. I went to the stadium for the press conference, so I’ve seen my way around and know my route to the stadium.

Every night I sit there, go through it in my head, and play it over. The ring walk; changing room; behind the scenes. I’ve been there 100 times now already.” 

Ryder earned a third-round TKO win over Bilal Akkawy on the Canelo-Jacobs undercard in Las Vegas four years ago, before ending a year-long layoff on the Golovkin vs. Kamil Szeremeta undercard after the aforementioned Smith defeat.

In the above interview, he discussed Canelo-GGG 3 last September and how an underwhelming showing – even in victory – confined the undisputed champion to the worst year of his career after being comfortably outboxed up a division by Bivol.

It’s a fair statement to make given Canelo’s sky-high expectations, at a time where many feel father time (62 fights, turning pro at 15) has already begun to take hold.

One thing they don’t give much credence to, is how he’s boxing through a TFCC tear injury sustained in the Caleb Plant win, finally requiring surgery last October.

As someone who had the same injury last February and is still suffering day-to-day lingering pain, albeit not from throwing punches (more on that, another day…), you have to imagine Canelo will subconsciously doubt whether the left hand is healed.

Having shared an Airbnb for three weeks with new two-time IBF super-featherweight champion Joe Cordina, Ryder is next up in a big fight too after the Welshman’s excellent victory on home soil against Shavkat Rakhimov last month.

We’ll have a better idea of what Canelo has left in the tank after this weekend, and whether Ryder can put on the show he promises in enemy territory.

Picture source: Getty Images, fighter quotes via boxingscene and boxingnews