Algieri's School Of Thought: Masterful Canelo's Southpaw Solution Will Prove He Remains The Face Of Boxing

For all of the talk of the fight between Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia determining the “new face of boxing”, when Saul "Canelo" Alvarez fights John Ryder  in front of a massive audience after the red carpet’s rolled out for him, he’ll show that he’s the one who retains that status. 

Initially, there had been talk about Canelo fighting in the UK, and I loved that idea. Fighting a British fighter there, as a global superstar, would have been a great introduction for him to the incredible British boxing audience. I also thought that Ryder represented a tough opponent for him – particularly with Canelo coming off a wrist injury. Ryder’s a both scrappy and classy fighter – his skills are certainly underrated – and he can also be tricky, and busy. 

Ryder certainly doesn’t strike me as someone who’s going to be affected by the bright lights or by instead traveling to Guadalajara. He and his team are very professional, and at 34 he’s a veteran – this might be his biggest fight but it’s far from his first.

It can be massive for a fighter when those around him are winning, as Joe Cordina did against Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov two weekends ago. I’ve often spoken about gyms and the way the culture of gyms can be overlooked. Having other lions in the gym with a fighter helps that fighter to elevate his game – seeing Cordina do so well and his hard work paying off has the potential to make a difference to Ryder come fight night.

At 168lbs Ryder’s used to being the shorter fighter – against a taller fighter in Callum Smith in 2019 he fought brilliantly – so he’s losing an advantage on Saturday. Canelo has also often favored fighting taller opposition – Smith and Sergey Kovalev included – but they have similar frames, so how that unfolds will be interesting. 

It’s too early to suggest Canelo’s in decline. I understand why those suggestions have been made – when someone’s at the very top they almost become easier to criticise – but there hasn’t been enough evidence for that conclusion to be drawn. At 32 he’s still at or close to his prime, physically; the Gennady Golovkin fight might not have delivered what it was hoped it would, but they’d already shared 24 very hotly contested rounds together before then, and Golovkin’s age would also have contributed, even though Canelo could have done more. Before that he lost to Dmitrii Bivol, but at light heavyweight, and Bivol proved that night that he’s not only a world-class fighter, but potentially belongs on the pound-for-pound list. 

I recently rewatched Canelo’s fight with Billy Joe Saunders in 2021, because I wanted to watch him against a southpaw. Saunders is a little bigger than Ryder – they had a good fight narrowly won on points by Saunders in 2013 – but a lot of the moves Canelo makes against southpaws are extremely dangerous and sharp. He mastered those moves in at least one training camp, as he showed that night against Saunders when lining up specific punch combinations. If he executes those same movements against Ryder, it’s going to be a really difficult night for Ryder. Increasingly, I can see him performing as masterfully as that again.

Algieri's School Of Thought: Masterful Canelo's Southpaw Solution Will Prove He Remains The Face Of Boxing
Photo Credit: Matchroom Boxing

I would love to think that the world is fair, but the judges this weekend are going to be in a stadium full of red-blooded, Canelo-loving Mexicans who lose their minds every time he does anything. Judges are also human – they’ll be there feeling that energy. I was at Canelo-Saunders, and the energy was overwhelming. Being there in Guadalajara is going to be something else again, and certainly won’t make their job any easier.

Earlier this week it was announced that Garcia split with Joe Goosen, his trainer for the fight with “Tank” Davis. Davis produced one of his best performances – he was so much more complete – because he knew he had someone dangerous in front of him. Where he’d normally be comfortable getting hit by his opponent, he wasn’t comfortable getting hit by Garcia, because he knew how dangerous Garcia can be and employed a level of defense and head movement we’ve not previously seen from him. He’s a phenomenal boxer with an incredible boxing IQ – he just hadn’t got the credit for it before because he’s also so powerful.

Him moving on from Goossen didn’t surprise me. It looked like he was taking a leaf out of the book of his promoter Oscar De La Hoya, who often responded to defeats by switching trainers but did his own thing regardless. 

Garcia seems to be wired similarly, and I hadn’t seen any real difference Goossen had made with him. Garcia was still being aggressive and seeking to land the left hook, and doing so with the same holes in his defense that have always been there. Davis made adjustments and worked on fighting him; Garcia just worked on fighting. 

Regardless of who succeeds Goossen, Garcia needs to be willing to learn, to train hard, to go through tough sessions, and to be told what to do. He has a lot of talent – and in that fight he showed himself to be tougher than he’s previously been given credit for. It’s a greater appreciation of the fundamentals he needs, and that needs to come from him giving a coach the chance to work on that, instead of a coach attempting to drill it into him.

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