A look back at the career of John Ryder, and the fights that meant the most to his career

Many outside of the UK might not be all that familiar with John Ryder, but the man who had to learn the sport of boxing on the job is here to challenge Canelo Alvarez for his undisputed super middleweight titles, on May 6th in Mexico, on pay-per-view.

Ryder is the story many fight fans tune in to see. A real-life Rocky Balboa-like figure as he showed boxing was just as much about physical sport, as it is a science - and even more so that with hard work and determination anything is possible.

Let’s now look at some of the milestones in Ryder’s career. 

Losing To Billy Joe Saunders

With only thirty-five amateur fights, Ryder fought for the British title in the middleweight division against a vastly more experienced Billy Joe Saunders in a prospect versus prospect fight. The fight played out as a lot of pundits expected as Saunders might talk trash aggressively outside the ring but is as elusive as a slippery squid in a person’s hand during combat. 

The fight summed up Ryder’s career -and the fight also forged two paths for two very different fighters. Ryder was unable to win over the hearts of judges despite a valiant effort, as he lost a close decision on the cards. Saunders would go on to be a world champion, a high-profile big-name fighter, whereas Ryder had to rebuild, and face some of the toughest talent emerging to get a chance at the big fights of the division. Losing the Saunders fight, changed the course of his career - yet somehow years later, we reflect back and see both Saunders and Ryder inevitably landing a fight of their own with Canelo Alvarez. 

Hard-Luck Pro

When you think of modern hard-luck pros, Matt Korobov comes to the top of the list. A fighter, who seemingly had all the talent in the world, but never got the breaks to make it in the sport. Ryder occupies a similar space, as Ryder would move up to the super middleweight division and lose a split decision to Rocky Fielding, and a majority decision loss to Callum Smith could have altered his career path much earlier in a positive way with a win.

The themes of these fights are simple. Ryder would lose certain rounds rather clearly, with a few swing rounds mixed in - and Ryder would almost always finish the fight stronger than his opponent. For this reason, Ryder typically would end the fight on the moral high ground with the fans as the perception was he was the fresher man at the end of the bout, as well as he was often creating the action.

Beats Daniel Jacobs

Ryder served his role occupying a space in the middleweight division, and then jumped up to super middleweight not just, because of his massive frame, but also more than likely because of the massive name - or name, Canelo. Not unlike a lot of hard-luck fighters, Ryder was a southpaw, had a good motor, and never came to a fight unprepared, because of this and his lack of a marquee win his opportunities seemed doomed…until Daniel Jacobs.

In a fight that was razor-close, like most of Ryder’s fights at the elite level, it appears Ryder has trouble creating separation at the highest level of the sport - Ryder picked up a split decision win over Daniel Jacobs in what was his career-defining win. Ryder defeated a former world champion and the man who gave Gennadiy Golovkin, one of his toughest fights.

Zach Parker Upset

In the fall of 2022, would cross promotional lines to face Zach Parker, an undefeated knockout artist many pundits had labeled as a top-ten super middleweight despite having fought limited opposition. The end result was the capstone to a year Ryder will never forget. In typical, Ryder fashion he started slow, but then began to close the distance from his southpaw stance and apply pressure. 

After a spirited flurry to end the round, Parker called it a day as the fight was waived off when Parker didn’t want to continue the fight after breaking his right hand. 

After all these years of adversity, Ryder defeated a former world champion Daniel Jacobs, and an up-and-coming prospect, Parker in one calendar year.

Shakes Off Label Of Unable To Win Big Fight

A loss is a scarlet letter that is hard to shake off in boxing, but for the working-class hero of John Ryder, his career to this point has been that of redemption. Most look at a loss as a death sentence in boxing, yet Ryder, not unlike many fighters who have had to learn on the job has gotten better with age, and better with time. Ryder is a blue-collar fighter, who shows up to the ring with a packed lunch ready to give any world-class fighter an honest fight. 

Will Ryder be the best of his era, I highly doubt it, but will those who respect boxing ever disrespect John Ryder - never in a million years? To fight in such a physical way, and put his life on the line by outworking opponents says something about his mental toughness that you can get a glimpse of in his mental fortitude. What makes Ryder great is his mind. He didn’t quit, despite all the rational signs telling him, maybe another option exists - he stayed the course and his will found a way. 

Now is Ryder’s time to have a big moment in the sport of boxing something that has alluded him up until this point.