Tony Sims believes that a victory for John Ryder over Saul “Canelo” Alvarez would be as impressive as that John H Stracey recorded over the great Jose Napoles in 1975.
On Saturday in Guadalajara, on the occasion of Alvarez’s first fight in Mexico for 12 years, Ryder fights to dethrone the revered Alvarez in what could even be the sport’s most difficult challenge.
Alvarez remains widely considered the world’s leading fighter, such is the income his fights generate, and Ryder, already the underdog, is fighting to dethrone him as the undisputed super middleweight champion in his home city on Cinco de Mayo weekend.
The respected Sims lived near Stracey in east London when he so unexpectedly, at a bullring in Mexico City, recorded what remains widely considered one of the finest victories ever achieved by a British fighter, and his memories of the occasion and the extent to which it was celebrated ultimately remain close to his heart.
“I was a kid when John H Stracey won that [WBC welterweight] title,” the trainer said. “It was funny, ‘cause he only lived in the next turning to me in Bethnal Green, ‘cause I was an amateur boxer then. I was a kid; I used to run past his apartment.
“When he won the world title against Jose Napoles no one give him a chance, because Napoles was an all-time great. He’s reigned for a long, long time, and he was a great fighter, and when he pulled that off… I remember on the bridge in Bethnal Green, someone put a big banner up. ‘John H Stracey, World Champion’. I’ll never forget that.
“It does take you back to those days because he done that in Mexico City, against an all-time great, and we’ve got John going into the same sort of lion’s den in Mexico. No one’s really giving John a chance – the same thing – and he’s in great condition and up for the fight.
“When you’re fighting an all-time great it don’t really matter where the fight is – if you beat an all-time great then you go down in history. But if you do it in their home town is something extra special. We’ve had Lloyd Honeyghan do that against Donald Curry [in 1986], John H Stracey do that against Jose Napoles [a Mexico-based Cuban], so it can be done. There’s a lot of generations of fighters in between but it can be done, and John’s confident that he can do this.”
Alvarez has lost only twice, and to fine fighters in Floyd Mayweather in 2013 and Dmitrii Bivol last year. Despite in the eyes of most observers losing convincingly he was awarded a draw on one of the three judges’ scorecards the night he was outboxed by Mayweather, and was scored only a narrow loser against Bivol having similarly appeared to have lost almost every round.
On both occasions in Las Vegas the 32-year-old Alvarez was also less of a favourite among those in attendance than he will be in Guadalajara – the great Julio Cesar Chavez was perhaps the last Mexican fighter to be so loved.
Asked if he and Ryder – who has previously been unfortunate to drop decisions in his career, including the night of his first defeat, against Billy Joe Saunders in 2013 – could trust the judges at the Akron Stadium, Sims then responded: “It’s hard to say. I don’t know any of the judges so I’m not going to condemn any of them, but going into Mexico, Canelo’s going to have the crowd behind him. It’s going to be very, very difficult to get a decision there – overwhelmingly so.
“That’s what John’s got to do – he’s got to win it big so there’s no disputing the decision. But I’m thinking about that; you’re thinking about that; everybody’s probably thinking about it. You’ve just got to hope and pray that the judges are still fair today. They don’t just sway with the crowd.
“To go and knock Canelo out is a difficult task. He’s great defensively. But we’ve got to go there to win the fight in any which way. [John’s] in great condition and looking forward to the fight.”