For some fighters, the path to a world championship fight is not as simple as it might seem. Some are able to get their opportunity off of the strength of an impressive win, which in turn serves as the catalyst to drum up support for said fighter to fight for a world title. While this may seem like the quickest path to one getting a shot, there are countless other fighters that must for lack of a better term rely on the structure that be in the sport, which means for a fighter to work their way to a mandatory position to force a shot at a world championship.
This is precisely the path that Super-Middleweight contender and former world title challenger John Ryder has taken, which has seen him fight his way to the number one contender's position in the World Boxing Organization's (WBO) Super-Middleweight ratings, which has now resulted in the native of London, England now being on the brink of the biggest fight of his career. A fight where he will challenge current Undisputed Super-Middleweight world champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez for all the marbles in the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division. Ryder's second opportunity to fight for a world championship will not just be for an undisputed championship, but will also come against one of the biggest stars in the sport when he faces Alvarez in Guadalajara, Mexico on May 6th, which can be seen globally on digital subscription sports streaming network DAZN and DAZN Pay-Per-View here in the United States and in Canada.
By now, this observer does not need to go into a long in-depth chronicle of the career of Saul Alvarez, a fighter known to his fans simply as "Canelo." Alvarez' status as a future Hall of Famer is cemented at this stage of his career. The current Undisputed Super-Middleweight King has however, hit a bump in the road recently when he was thoroughly out boxed when he moved up to Light-Heavyweight to challenge undefeated WBA world champion Dmitry Bivol in May of last year. Although Alvarez was able to bounce back from the twelve round unanimous decision loss to Bivol by decisioning Middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin in their third meeting in September of last year, there are some who question whether Alvarez has truly recovered from the loss to Bivol from a psychological standpoint.
It may indeed be true that Alvarez was out boxed by a master boxer in Bivol, but this observer does not necessarily feel that, that loss or what proved to be a more difficult fight than some might have expected the third time around against a fighter in Gennady Golovkin, who is closer to the end of his career than he is the prime of his career, necessarily signals a decline in Alvarez, but there is no disputing that 2022 was not the best year for him. Now as Alvarez prepares to defend his crown for the first time in 2023, he will be fulfilling his mandatory defense obligations as far as the WBO is concerned when he faces Ryder in his hometown at the Akron Stadium. What has all the appearance of a "Homecoming Fight" for Alvarez and has even been marketed as such taking place during Cinco De Mayo weekend, this may turn out to be a more dangerous fight than some might expect.
Despite suffering five losses in his career up to this point, John Ryder has only been stopped once in his career and that stoppage came eight years ago at the hands of Nick Blackwell. Ryder has since proven to be quite durable and even in fights he has lost such as to former Super-Middleweight world champion Callum Smith, in his first attempt at a world championship, there is some argument as to Ryder having been on the bad end of some decisions that could have gone either way. Since his loss to Smith in November 2019, Ryder has won four straight fights that has served to build a wave of momentum including a twelve round split decision win over former IBF Middleweight world champion Daniel Jacobs in February of last year that secured him the number one ranking in the WBO ratings.
In addition to the momentum he has been able to build going into this fight, the challenger may have something else working in his favor. Although there is no disputing that Alvarez is one of the biggest stars in the sport, his position has also afforded him the opportunity to schedule his fights or at least his intention to fight well in advance of when he actually competes. In the current scenario, Alvarez has already stated that he would like a rematch with Dmitry Bivol in September. Therefore, the possibility exists that the champion could well be overlooking an opponent with an eye on avenging his defeat to Bivol.
While it is important to keep in mind that John Ryder will be walking into the equivalent of a lion's den by facing Alvarez in his hometown with a potential record crowd of supporters on his corner, Ryder literally has nothing to lose here and if Alvarez is not taking this fight seriously, it could play right into his hands. How can John Ryder pull off an upset on what will be hostile ground?
The most obvious approach will be for Ryder to establish the tempo of the combat immediately and make it difficult for Alvarez to get into a rhythm. This can prove to be easier said than done, however, Ryder does have a style where he does come forward and he can make fights difficult on opponents by grinding out rounds where he is able to outwork them in volume of punches, while also making it difficult for his opponent to get his punches off. While the approach is not necessarily the most entertaining to watch, it is effective when Ryder is able to execute it effectively.
What Ryder needs to keep in mind however, in his approach of how he tries to attack Alvarez, is that Alvarez has always been very compact with his offense and in particular is a very dangerous counter puncher in addition to having punching power. Although anything can happen once two fighters are in the midst of battle, there are likely some who feel that John Ryder will essentially have to fight a perfect fight here if he is going to have a chance to win this fight, particularly if the bout goes the distance as every advantage one could point to outside of the matching between the two fighters, also favors the champion from the home crowd advantage, to that advantage possibly being able to influence how a bout is scored, which could prove crucial if there are rounds throughout the fight that might seem close.
Although judges are not supposed to be influenced in any way when they score a fight beyond what is going on in the ring, the atmosphere of a massive and loud crowd does indeed play a role otherwise one is not human. This does not mean to suggest any possible corruption, but the point this observer is making is with what is likely to be a massive and loud crowd in attendance, the possibility that judges might have trouble maintaining focus due to noise is very real, which unfortunately can play a role in the outcome if the fight does indeed go all twelve rounds.
Despite the fact that everything seems to favor Alvarez and keeping in mind that this is a mandatory defense of one of the world championships that he holds that compromise the Undisputed Super-Middleweight championship of the world, a real question that should be asked as this fight approaches in addition to whether Alvarez is looking ahead towards a potential rematch with Dmitry Bivol, is just how long will Alvarez remain in the 168lb. Super-Middleweight division. At this stage of his career and keeping in mind that he did briefly hold a world championship in the Light-Heavyweight division, it is likely a fight by fight process for him as opposed to committing to trying to have as lengthy and successful reign as champion as possible. Whether John Ryder can surprise many and dethrone Alvarez in his "Homecoming" remains to be seen.
"And That's The Boxing Truth."
Alvarez vs. Ryder takes place on Saturday, May 6th at Akron Stadium in Guadalajara, Mexico. In North America, the fight can be seen on DAZN Pay-Per-View for $54.99. Outside of the United States and Canada, the bout can be seen on DAZN internationally as part of a standard monthly or annual DAZN subscription and an on demand replay of the bout as well as it's full undercard will be made available following the event. The broadcast will begin at 6PM ET/3PM PT with The DAZN Boxing Show: Before the Bell, which will feature preliminary bouts. The pay-per-view broadcast will begin at 7PM ET/4PM PT. (* U.S. Times Only*)
For more information about DAZN including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms, Smart TVs, availability around the world, local start times in your area, and to subscribe and verify if pay-per-view access is required in your region for this event please visit: www.DAZN.com.
For non-DAZN subscribers/users in North America, the card will also be available on traditional cable/satellite providers and PPV.com and the PPV.com app on mobile, tablet, and connected streaming devices/Smart TVs, for $79.99. Visit www.PPV.com to order and for instructions on where to download and access the PPV.com app or contact your cable/satellite provider for ordering information.
(*Card and start time subject to change, check DAZN.com for local start times internationally.)
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