Smith: Ryder fight will show extent of Canelo's decline

Callum Smith believes Saturday’s fight between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and John Ryder will show how much Alvarez has left.

On the occasion of Cinco de Mayo weekend and Alvarez’s first fight in Mexico in 11 years they fight at the Akron Stadium in Guadalajara, for the undisputed super middleweight title.

Before his convincing defeat by Dmitrii Bivol in May 2022 Alvarez was widely regarded as the world’s finest fighter. Since then and because of then, despite a comfortable victory over Gennady Golovkin in September there have been suggestions he is in decline.

The 33-year-old Smith lost for the only time in his career when he recorded a unanimous decision defeat by Alvarez in 2020 when the Mexican unquestionably remained at his peak. In his previous fight he laboured to a difficult points victory over Ryder, and therefore is well-versed in the strengths and weaknesses of both men.

“No disrespect to John, but if Canelo’s on form it should be pretty straightforward for him, and if it’s not, then you’ve got to give John credit for performing but I think it’ll say a little bit more about Canelo and where he’s at,” Smith told ProBox TV. “If he is back to his best then it should be a routine win for him. 

“He’s very hard to beat. Especially at 168lbs. John’s strength, as mad as it sounds, is probably his awkwardness ‘cause of how short and compact he is. He’s actually the taller man in this fight, so that bit of awkwardness he loses against Canelo. It’ll be interesting but I just think if he performs he should have a little bit too much.

“[Ryder’s] earned his shot. Do I think he wins? No. I’ll always back one of our own and wish them well but though Canelo’s performances have dipped of late he’s still one of the best fighters in the world. On his day he’s very, very hard to beat. He’ll be, skill-wise, a little bit too much for John.

“Of course it’s complacency if you’re talking about a fight further down the line and you’re banking on winning. It could be classed as confidence; it could be classed as overlooking him. No doubt [Alvarez has] pencilled in the next fight, but if he loses to John Ryder does that fight happen in September? No, it doesn’t. So he has gotta be focused and keep his eye on what’s in front of him. But I think, at that level, he’s got to have his next fights pencilled in and who he’s fighting in May after that, so it’s probably just confidence on his side and, without being brutal, if he does perform it should be pretty routine for him.”

That Alvarez, 32, underwent surgery on a long-term wrist injury after defeating Golovkin has contributed to an expectation among those around him that on Saturday against the 34-year-old Ryder he will be vastly improved.

“Losing to Bivol; 175lbs, doesn’t really suit Canelo,” said Smith, who is awaiting a date with Russia’s other revered light heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev. "Even in the [Sergey] Kovalev win, he didn’t really look great up until the finish, and Kovalev was ageing. I do think before that Bivol hadn’t looked great so he probably underestimated him, but Bivol’s a great fighter and there’s no shame in losing to him. But even if Canelo felt like he had a point to prove after that he didn’t really look the best against Triple G; I don’t think either of them did. 

“Is he ageing? I don’t know. It’s hard to say. He’s in his 30s now so maybe it is that – decline – but even if he is he’s still a very, very good fighter. The next few fights will tell whether he’s on the decline or plateauing out a bit, which a lot of fighters do do, and they pick back up again. It doesn’t mean he’s finished. Sometimes they just have a dip in form and maybe get it back again.