Paulie's Picks: Head-hunting Canelo remains a great fighter

I’d always thought that John Ryder was capable of testing Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. He’s crafty; a southpaw; physically strong. I expected Canelo to win but I was expecting to be entertained – and I was.

I’ve since seen a lot of suggestions that their fight showed that Canelo’s declining. I’ve never agreed that he was quite as great as he was once made out to be, but that doesn’t mean he’s not still a great fighter. The accolades he was always given surpassed the reality – he’s a world-class fighter, but sometimes those accolades suggested no one should ever even be competitive with him. He’s always had traits that would make him vulnerable against certain opponents – and traits that would count as strengths against them. 

Was he that much better than the rest? Or was he just the one who got the accolades because he brings so much money to the table? He’s been able to fight whoever he’s wanted whenever he’s wanted to. He made Gennady Golovkin wait before their first two fights, and after those – neither of which I thought he won – he made him wait another four years for the third.

David Benavidez is also being made to wait, but Benavidez is younger than Canelo, so the longer he waits to fight him the worse it is for Canelo. Canelo used the excuse that Demetrius Andrade wouldn’t be a popular opponent, but was Rocky Fielding a popular opponent? Was Avni Yildirim? When you’re in that position you get to make the big fights when you want them – not when the public demands them – and sometimes that can hurt the sport. 

Whoever he chooses for his next opponent will be very, very interesting. I don’t think going up to light heavyweight is “daring to be great”, because you’re not putting the undisputed super middleweight title on the line. Benavidez is deserving of a shot, but that’s not to say he beats Canelo, because he showed flaws against Caleb Plant that Canelo can exploit – in the same way Canelo showed flaws against Ryder that Benavidez can exploit. In the context of Canelo’s career, Canelo-Benavidez is the best fight that can be made. Beating Benavidez would be a real statement – a bigger statement than losing to Dmitrii Bivol at 175lbs.

Paulie's Picks: Head-hunting Canelo remains a great fighter

In the early part of the fight against Ryder I noticed Canelo going to the body more – when Ryder was still fresh, and still crafty. When Ryder was being broken down, Canelo figured he was more hittable to the head and started to aim for it, having already got the knockdown with a head punch. He should have stuck to the body – he did some really good work to the body – but when you see a guy’s face bloodied you think your shots to the head are doing the damage. Which, of course, they were, but Ryder’s sturdy and crafty, so he wasn’t going to go down easily and he was able to ride those shots and not take them as cleanly, and to counter-punch and fight back, which he did a very good job of.

The prospect of Ryder fighting Golovkin is very interesting, because the best of Golovkin is behind him. It’d be a good fight, because of Ryder’s strength and craftiness – and his willingness to be in the mix and reluctance to run. There was a small ring in Guadalajara for his fight with Canelo, but Ryder’s not a fighter who uses the ring that much anyway – he doesn’t run. By him being in front of Golovkin and making Golovkin work harder than he needs to, he may be able to succeed.

Before the main event in Mexico, Matchroom unveiled Regis Prograis and Andy Cruz as their latest signings. Matchroom have a lot of dates, and will be able to match Prograis in some big money-fights, which he’s earned.

I’ve heard a lot great things about Cruz. He was a stellar amateur – anytime these monstrous amateurs come out of Cuba there’s always a lot of curiosity about them, and I’m particularly curious about him. He’s a nice addition to the great lightweight division – he’s that good that he’s immediately a threat to the best fighters at 135lbs