'Canelo' Alvarez beats brave Ryder in homecoming fight

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was taken the distance and ultimately frustrated by the resilient John Ryder in the latest defence of his undisputed super middleweight title.

The Mexican, fighting in Guadalajara for the first time in 12 years and on the occasion of Cinco de Mayo weekend, consistently dominated and outboxed his challenger but, after knocking him down in the fifth round, struggled to force the stoppage he was clearly targeting.

On the occasion of his first fight in his home city of Guadalajara for 12 years, the undisputed super middleweight champion looked on course for the one-sided victory so widely expected when in the fifth round he dropped him with a powerful left-right combination.

Ryder, his face by then already covered in blood having suffered a suspected broken nose, not only returned to his feet but admirably started fighting back, and though he took consistent punishment from a both heavy-handed and explosive puncher, by the final round Alvarez was also tiring and running out of ideas. 

The scores of 120-107, 118-109 and 118-109 were a reflection of the extent to which Ryder was outboxed by the world’s leading fighter at the Akron Stadium, but in his refusal to be stopped on an evening when he earned a career-high purse he enhanced his reputation and will likely earn another big fight.

Off the back of his defeat by Dmitrii Bivol and then victory over Gennady Golovkin in 2022 there existed suggestions that Alvarez is in decline. He had since undergone surgery on a long-term wrist injury and was so confident of defeating Ryder that he even insisted he would retire if he lost.

His inability to record the stoppage he was clearly striving for will almost certainly strengthen the perception that his skills are slowly eroding, but even if they are, he inadvertently helped Ryder’s attempts to survive by trying to force the knockout at the expense of some of the subtlety that had led to his earlier success.

It was as early as the second round that the difficulty of the challenge Ryder was confronting was laid bare. He had already taken a powerful right hand and body punch from one of the world’s most proven body punchers when, in the second, he took a straight right that appeared to break his nose.

The sight of blood thereafter encouraged Alvarez to headhunt, and after the 32-year-old succeeded in landing an uppercut and lefts to the body in the fourth round Ryder was at risk of being broken down. He was unconcerned by the busy Ryder’s power, and built further momentum when landing the left-right that knocked his challenger down heavily enough that he looked unlikely to return to his feet.

When he did Ryder then showed few signs of being in trouble and instead of simply attempting to tie Alvarez up and avoid risking further punishment he sought to fight back. His ambition meant that his knees were buckled by another right in the sixth, but after another strong right hand he fought back again, and landed a left uppercut.

He was hurt again in the seventh by further lefts and rights that opened a cut by his left eye that, combined with the blood still coming from his nose, undermined his ability to see. Both injuries also threatened his hopes of fighting on despite his conditioning at altitude – they were fighting at 1,566 metres above sea level – and an even more punishing round was still to come.

Throughout the ninth, the 34-year-old Ryder – who insisted on remaining on his feet between rounds – was repeatedly hurt by a succession of right hands, and to the extent that another equally damaging round could have forced his trainer Tony Sims to rescue him.

Instead, thereafter he not only had periods of success while again fighting back, he did so against a frustrated opponent who was starting to accept that he would not be stopped, even when in the final round they briefly traded. 

It was reported by Forbes earlier this week that Alvarez not only remains the world’s highest-paid fighter, but the fifth highest-paid athlete in the world. After the final bell he immediately used his considerable influence to call for a rematch in September with Russia’s Bivol – a rematch he spoke about wanting at the first press conference to announce his fight with Ryder.

On the undercard in Guadalajara, Julio Cesar Martinez stopped Ronal Batista in 11 rounds in the latest defence of his WBC flyweight title. Oleksandr Gvozdyk earlier stopped Ricards Bolotniks in the sixth of their light-heavyweight fight, and Gabriel Gollaz Valenzuela was awarded a split decision over Steve Spark at super lightweight.