Canelo Alvarez returns to his home city of Guadalajara, Mexico for the first time in more than a decade to defend his super middleweight undisputed championship against London’s John Ryder at Akron Stadium on Saturday.
Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs), is a big favorite (-2000 according to Caesars Sportsbook) to defeat Ryder (32-5, 18 KOs) who’s fighting for the first time in Mexico and only his fourth time outside of the UK.
Ryder has some power and is mentally tough. He has won four consecutive fights following a controversial defeat against Callum Smith in November 2019. He has the tools to disrupt Alvarez’s rhythm and a sneaky right hook.
Alvarez had an uneven 2022, losing to Dmitry Bivol challenging for the WBC light heavyweight title last May, and then defending his super middleweight titles against Gennadiy Golovkin in September. He’s one of boxing’s top stars and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Can Ryder score the upset? Two-division champion and current ESPN boxing analyst Timothy Bradley Jr. breaks down the super middleweight matchup.
It’s been 11-plus years since the former pound-for-pound king and boxing’s biggest star, whom many consider to be the face of boxing, has fought on Mexican soil. It’s been eight months since I last saw him, on Sept 17, 2022, at T-Mobile Arena in his trilogy versus Gennadiy Golovkin. That was an easy night for the undisputed super middleweight champion. He’s fighting Ryder, an aggressive southpaw with big legs and an even more assertive mentality, who calls himself “The Gorilla.”
I remember the night he defeated Daniel Jacobs in Las Vegas. Jacobs is considered to be a talented boxer from Brooklyn, New York, and it was shocking to me and many watching how Ryder approached this fight. Jacobs was far superior technically, but it didn’t matter. Most times, how deeply a fighter desires to win and having the will to endure whatever it takes is all they need to come out victorious. That is Ryder in a nutshell.
I can remember when Muhammad Ali said, “Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.”
The reason this is important is because Alvarez has suffered two defeats in his career. One against an all-time great in Floyd Mayweather, and the other against a future Hall of Famer and the WBC 175-pound champion Bivol. What both fighters had in common was an acute sense of controlling distance and range behind an impeccably educated jab. So, perhaps Alvarez would steal a page out of their book and try to dominate the range and the distance with his lateral movement and stiff hard jab. That will open lanes for his lethal power punch assaults.
When I watch fights in person or on film, I see it all. The interchangeable exchanges, adjustments, the feeling of the balance of both fighters and the power generated by both. I understand both fighters’ rhythms, timing, foot speed and hand speed. Ryder’s boxing style is tailor-made for Alvarez’s counterpunching style.
How can Ryder win?
In all the years watching Alvarez, I’ve noticed that no one has ever formed a game plan around attacking his body. Not even Bivol or Mayweather really tested him downstairs to the stomach. I’ve seen Ryder overcome some exceptional fighters like Jacobs, who is a common opponent for both. Ryder’s tactics and elite conditioning and mental toughness carried him through.
But let me tell you this loud and clear: Ryder is not going to win a boxing match that way, especially not in Mexico against Alvarez. But he can win the war. He should be tactical and precise early on because Alvarez is strong. But after four or five rounds it’s time for Ryder to bring the pain and go on the assault.
Alvarez is a prolific counter-puncher, but he looks for opportunities to rest with his mobility and head movement. So that’s when Ryder should push the pace.
Ryder depends on disrupting his opponent’s balance while giving up foot placement and technique, darting inside quickly, bringing his head forward, past his vertical line, and leaving his feet a split second behind on occasion, and proceeding with his left crosses.
That momentum carries him and positions him inside, bodying up and bumping most opponents off their mark. Ryder insists on gaining positional advantages while using his physical strength with this tactic. The old punch-and-smother tactic. And while that has worked in his favor in the past, I don’t think it will work against Alvarez.
How can Alvarez win
Alvarez implements pull counters and high guard traps for fighters with balance issues like Ryder. Alvarez is similar in size and strength to his opponent, but his pistol jab and sharp counters will be made to order for the always-tough Brit.
Ryder’s poor foot positioning is another bad sign for the challenger, especially in an open-stance battle. Southpaw vs. orthodox battles consist of lead foot dominance. That’s placing the lead foot outside the lead foot of the opposite fighter, which lines up the backhand for both fighters. Ryder doesn’t do that, or he may prefer his lead foot inside most of the time, and mainly to throw his lead right hook, a punch that he consistently throws with conviction.
That won’t be enough to stop the future Hall of Famer. Between Ryder’s lunging, telegraphed punches, and lack of defense responsibilities, particularly with jabs and power shots, plus his limited footwork, Alvarez should have a field day on his return.
The last time Canelo fought among his people of Mexico, it was against Kermit Clinton, who he knocked out in five rounds. I anticipate a stoppage and a refreshed, invigorated Alvarez. I envision a nasty liver shot ending this match — and the crowd going wild.