Previewing Saul Alvarez vs John Ryder

Tonight on DAZN PPV Canelo Alvarez makes his second defense of his undisputed 168 lbs. championship in his sixth championship fight at the division since moving up from middleweight. The thirty-two year-old Mexican star is competing on Mexican soil for the first time since 2011 and is entering the ring for the sixty-third time in his career. John Ryder is a thirty-four year-old challenger from the UK entering with a record of 32-5 18 KO’s and 1 KO loss. Despite Ryder’s vast experience and four fight winning streak, he is seen as a +1000 underdog to Alvarez’s -2000 favorite status. This fight is not generating much, well more negative buzz than anything based on this fact. Most fans are calling for a David Benavidez fight and are expressing their disdain for this match up. I cannot remember a bigger backlash on a premier fighter for a title fight; maybe Danny Garcia’s massacre against Rod Salka.

John Ryder has gotten this fight because he is the mandatory challenger for the WBO off the back of his victory over 22-0 Zach Parker in 2022. Ryder secured the biggest victory of his career with a close decision over Danny Jacobs which was a WBA elimination fight as well. The Jacobs fight saw Ryder plow forward down the stretch of the fight and outpoint a fatigued Jacobs. Though I felt the decision was controversial and agreed more with Marcus McDonnel’s 115-113 Jacobs card it was still a close and well competed fight. Ryder’s high point would be his extremely controversial loss to Callum Smith for the WBA title. Despite all three judges awarding the bout to Smith; fan scores on Boxrec’s fan average have it 116-112 Ryder which is more of a descriptor of what went down that night. Flip the Smith loss and Ryder is on a nine fight streak dating back to 2017. Despite the low KO percentage for Ryder, six of his eighteen stoppage wins have occurred in his last nine fights so that is an interesting trend.

I also cannot remember the last time a high profile fight had two fighters who shared so many common opponents. Both Ryder and Alvarez faced Billy Joe Saunders, Rocky Fielding, Callum Smith and Danny Jacobs. Alvarez went 4-0 scoring a destructive KO if Fielding, nearly shutout Smith, stopped Saunders, and won a clear decision over Jacobs. Ryder is officially 1-3 though could be 2-2 with a close win over Jacobs, robbery loss to Smith, and a pair of close decisions to Saunders and Fielding. While Alvarez won those fights outright, Ryder either lost or fought on even terms. I hate to do the A vs B vs C logic but it indicates a difference in levels here. Stylistically, I do not think this match up favors Ryder at all.

Ryder really only has one gear, that is come forward and get inside. Alvarez thrives against these types of fighters and has had little trouble against other pressure fighters like Alfredo Angulo and James Kirkland. Alvarez has struggled mightily with movers who counter like Dmitry Bivol, Floyd Mayweather, Erislandy Lara and Austin Trout. Educated pressure fighters like Gennady Golovkin did have a lot of success but I have not seen Ryder fight at that level. Ryder needs to be inside to be effective and has a sneaky left uppercut from the southpaw stance and a nice right hook. He throws an effective left cross as well and goes to the body with ferocity. When Jacobs withered down the stretch and his jab was less authoritative, Ryder closed the distance and made it a street fight. Callum Smith’s jab couldn’t get the respect of Ryder and he was able to make it a phone booth fight along the ropes. Canelo Alvarez was pushed to the ropes by effective jabs from Golovkin in their first match and by Bivol. Ryder has an inch in height and two inches in reach and might be able to jab Alvarez backwards. Unlike Jacobs and Smith, Alvarez is a much more sophisticated counter puncher with greater punch variety. If Ryder gets in close the fast hands from Canelo will likely reach their target first and dig into Ryder’s body. Canelo has a tendency to fade a little in the later rounds and that might present an opportunity for Ryder to have success.

Predictions on Forbes, CBS Sports, DraftKings, Bad Left Hook and ESPN are in agreement that Alvarez will win by stoppage. Forbes predicted it in five rounds which I think is a bit early considering the toughness of Ryder. The other outlets picked anywhere from the eighth round into the tenth round. These predictions seem more right in my eyes. Alvarez is coming off left hand surgery and if that injury flares up again that takes away the liver shot. Against a southpaw his right hand will probably be more important and that hand is healthy. I felt for a stretch of fights from Golovkin II to the Bivol loss that Alvarez had been improving in every fight and reaching his peak. I think that peak has been reached and a slow decline will begin. If Alvarez losses a step and cannot stop Ryder this turns into an interesting fight if Ryder can get in close. I expect Ryder to be competitive and make this a fun fight but Alvarez will time him, tame him with counters and stop him later on in the fight.

Finally, I will state that I feel Ryder has been treated very unfairly in the lead up to this fight by many fans on social media. Ryder is way more than qualified to earn this title shot. That said, boxing really has two tiers; there are world class fighters good enough to compete for titles and be ranked in their division and there are elite pound for pound type of fighters. Ryder would not be slammed as a title challenger if David Benevidez was champ or Caleb Plant. That said this fight really should not be PPV and is not a compelling match up. I do feel Canelo has fought a whose who of elite fighters from 154 to 175 and to knock him for this fight is disingenuous. Sure we want the Benevidez fight but that is not going anywhere. David is in his mid twenties and just got the best win of his career over Plant. Alvarez did the work to beat all the belt holders at 168 and took the risk at 175. Ryder is the WBO mandatory and this is the reality of being a unified champ. I also will take the stance that Benavidez is not his boogieman and resembles the pressure fighters that Alvarez normally tears apart.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s