Tony Sims believes that in Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, John Ryder is fighting “one of the greatest of all time”.
Alvarez and Ryder fight on Saturday at Guadalajara’s Akron Stadium on the occasion of Alvarez’s first fight in Mexico since 2011, and ultimately the occasion of the biggest fight of Ryder’s life.
The Briton, 34, is attempting to dethrone the undisputed super middleweight champion, and also doing so on Cinco de Mayo weekend.
Despite being a significant underdog there have regardless been suggestions that he is fighting the Mexican favourite at a good time. Until his defeat by Dmitrii Bivol a year ago Alvarez was considered the world’s finest fighter. He has since beaten the ageing Gennady Golovkin before undergoing surgery on a hand injury, and across the course of those two fights there have been suggestions he has shown signs of decline.
The 32-year-old Alvarez’s defeat by Bivol owed partly to him fighting at light heavyweight when his natural weight division is perhaps 160lbs. Ryder, too, is at super middleweight having once been a middleweight, but unlike Alvarez – a super lightweight on his professional debut aged 15 in 2005 – he has never been lighter than middleweight, making him the more natural fit at 168lbs.
“John spent a lot of his career at middleweight and then moved up to super middle,” said Sims. “When you look at Canelo next to John you can sorta tell that he’s not a natural super middleweight.
“But that don’t take anything away from what he’s done in his career and who he is because, as well all know, he jumped up to light heavyweight and beat [in 2019, Sergey] Kovalev. You’ve got to look at him as one of the greatest of all time, really,
“Looking at last year, Canelo probably had his worst year last year than he’s probably had his whole professional career. He got beat by Bivol and he got beat convincingly as well. He didn’t look great against [Gennady] Golovkin either, whereas John probably had his best year of his career, so that’s two different years they’ve both had and John’s in his prime.
“He beat Danny Jacobs; he hurt Danny Jacobs as well; I didn’t see Canelo or Golovkin hurting Danny Jacobs but John had Jacobs in real trouble. Then the [Zach] Parker fight – he won that pretty easy. So he’s had a great year going into this fight; he’s got good momentum. We’ll be going in there with confidence.”
Ryder typically finishes fights well, but on the occasions Alvarez lost he did so against opponents who built an early lead and prevented him for gaining rhythm and momentum. Alvarez is also an effective body puncher, which could test Ryder’s stamina and ability to maintain a high work-rate into the later rounds.
“It is important to get off to a good start, but in the same breath, John likes to look at the opponent and see what they’ve got and work his way into the fight,” Sims said. “I don’t want him waiting too long, but that’s what he’s all about. He’s smart; he likes to look at the fighter; he likes to feel what they’ve got, and then he’ll start working his way into the fight and that’s just the way he works.
“John’s boxed three of the fighters that Canelo’s boxed. The Rocky Fielding fight [in 2017], I believe John won that fight. The Callum Smith fight [in 2019], I believe John won that fight. They’re his only two losses up at super middleweight. I don’t believe he’s ever been beat at super middle.
“He lost to Billy Joe [Saunders, in 2013] early in his career when they was both middleweights, and that could have easily been a draw. Them defeats he’s had against opponents Canelo’s fought, they’re very controversial, and I know them fighters very well, so watching them against Canelo you can take a lot from that.”