It’s the biggest week of John Ryder’s fighting life as he prepares to topple one of the sport’s modern greats.
On Saturday, in front of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s sold-out crowd in Guadalajara, Ryder will attempt to score an upset of epic proportions and maybe even pull off a shock that would register as the finest win on the road by a British fighter.
Ryder started camp at Tony Sims’s Essex gym, then took his preparations to Los Angeles before wrapping them in Mexico this week.
Trainer Sims knows his man has a huge task ahead of him, in a fight that was rumoured to be happening in a stadium in the UK and then Las Vegas before it found its home in Mexico.
“Oh yeah, of course it is,” admitted Sims, of the unenviable task at hand. “You probably have to win every round and get two knockdowns to have a draw over there. I ain’t silly. I’ve been in the game a long time. He [Ryder]’s fighting the pound for pound fighter in the world and probably for the last decade we’ve all been watching him [Canelo] how great a fighter he is. And bear in mind, John boxed on his undercard when Canelo fought Danny Jacobs, and we sat ringside and watched him fight, and I went out to Vegas and watched Canelo versus [Amir] Khan as well, just as a fan really. Everyone knows what he’s all about and what a great fighter he is, so it’s a great achievement for John to land this fight and he’s worked tirelessly through the years and boxed just about everyone he possibly could to get in this position, to get into the mandatory position and be in the interim champ, and he's finally got the big fight everybody wants. John’s going to go in there and I think it’s going to be a good fight.”
Sims, by the way, is maintaining a positive disposition. He is not only confident in his charge but, in studying Canelo’s most recent fights, he thinks the 32-year-old might be in decline.
“Looking at Canelo’s last two fights, he’s not the Canelo that we all know or that we’ve known for years,” Sims explained. “Not taking anything out of that because you’ve got to think you’re fighting the best, but definitely the last year… he hasn’t been the same fighter, so John’s going to be right in front of him. He’s not going to be on the back foot, so I think it’s going to be a good fight and we know John’s resilient as well, he’s a tough geezer and he’s pretty smart.”
And while Sims is not attempting to take anything away from Canelo, whom he clearly has an enormous amount of respect for, the Essex-based coach is keen to talk up his own fighter and Ryder’s chances of pulling off an upset.
“Since he [Ryder]’s moved up to super-middle, he’s been a different fighter,” Tony continued. “The [Callum] Smith fight obviously goes down as a loss on his record [many felt Ryder deserved a decision win] but anyone who’s watched that fight… and I remember [Canelo’s trainer] Eddy Reynoso saying to Eddie Hearn that John Ryder definitely won that fight, [that] it was a terrible decision. They will know what John’s all about anyway. At super-middleweight, he’s really not been beaten, so the way he’s looking at it, he’s going in like an unbeaten fighter at super-middleweight.”
Team Ryder have travelled to Mexico in the last 24 hours having completed preparations in Los Angeles. They are on hostile ground, where Canelo will be cheered and celebrated like a conquering hero throughout fight week and on the night itself.
Sims joked of boxing on enemy territory… “’I said to Eddie, are we going to get out of here okay?!’ But I was speaking to someone in America who’d been over there [to Mexico] and he said the Mexican people said, ‘If you’re in a good fight, they just love it whether you win or lose.’ They will love John over there. Obviously the whole crowd will be for Canelo, but they’ll enjoy the fight and whatever happens, they’ll have a lot of respect for John.”
Ryder told ProBox TV News shortly after the fight was announced that he hopes to make the Tony Sims gym Wall of Fame. On that wall are combinations made famous by the likes of Mike Tyson and Miguel Cotto, and Ryder hopes to have his own series of shots up alongside the names of the greats there one day. There is already a Canelo one. Asked what Ryder’s specialty would be if he’s to make it onto the wall, Sims smiled: “It would probably be that little sly left uppercut that he puts on everyone. To be honest, I’ll have to stick that on the wall because he’s magic doing that shot. Somehow, he always gets that off. He manages to get it off on everyone, no matter how tall they are, he always gets it off. He’s smart.”