John rides out the storm to dampen Canelo homecoming
Plus, Mexican extends his trail of UK victims
A decade is a long time in boxing. Champions come and go, bodies endure a little more wear and tear, records collect blemishes and stains. Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has gone from strength to strength since he last graced a “home” crowd, almost 12 years ago. On that occasion Kermit Cintron was dealt with in five lopsided rounds.
Once a dangerous fighter, capable of causing trouble at world title level, the Puerto Rican puncher had slipped from grace. Challenging a WBC super-welterweight champion fast growing in momentum, the task was almost impossible for Kermit who got dropped in round four and bounced around like a muppet in the next round.
Photo Credit: Marca
Fast forward to Cinco De Mayo weekend of 2023 and the fight favourite was once again expected to deliver a strong KO statement. One of the main obstacles standing in Canelo’s way was John Ryder, a supposed fall guy, brought in to help light the firework of a homecoming parade. Ryder turned down his role, instead delivering a more-than-worthy display of rigid defiance, fine coated with commendable skills.
Speaking to Boxing News Plus, promoter Eddie Hearn made a good point about Canelo’s motivation levels and the star’s inability to “rise to the occasion”. Despite the gravity of the event, bringing with it a pressure to perform and deliver the big finish, Canelo’s opponent was unlikely to bring enough heat to greatly concern the Mexican. Hence, the lack of edge to a performance missing an element of danger.
That is not to take away from Ryder’s display. The Islington southpaw ticked all of the cliché boxes: toughness, guts, heart etc. It’s hard to imagine fighting against such a heavy-handed operator, taking repeated blows to a badly broken nose. Blood was streaming down John’s face from round two and he was dropped in the fifth round.
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At that point the away man could’ve been forgiven for taking slightly too long to rise from Michael Griffin’s count. The option of remaining on his knee was no doubt strong. However, Ryder refused to buckle and exit at this point. Standing tall, throwing and landing return shots, Ryder’s evening was incomplete. Two years older than Canelo, the 34-year-old wanted to show the world what he’s made of.
Gut check aside, the Englishman showed skill and variety, especially with the uppercut. Throwing back almost immediately whenever Canelo landed a big shot, Ryder stood side on and rolled away from a few bombs for good measure. Going the 12 rounds did the challenger no harm whatsoever. Walking into the Guadalajara sunshine with a career-high payday, there’s no shame in defeat. ‘The Gorilla’ offered a lot more than many of his British contemporaries who have previously sampled the full force and folded under duress.
The final scores of 118-109 (twice) and a ridiculous 120-107 did not tell the full story as Canelo retained his four super-middleweight belts in front of a delirious Akron Stadium crowd.
"I've always said it, when they fight me, they give their 100 per cent, it gets complicated because they usually give me the fight of their lives,” the victor later lamented.
Ryder bemoaned his badly busted nose as a clear handicap. The loser also interestingly claimed that Canelo had indeed been sweating for a knockout but was unable to get it over the line. “He’s probably past his best,” Ryder surmised.
The wear and tear is clear to see. Turning pro at 15, expanding up around 35 pounds since a 2005 debut will certainly do that to you. Canelo fancies another shot at Dmitry Bivol next. It’s hard to see what he can do differently against the excellent Russian light-heavyweight.
Canelo insists that a wrist injury hampered his efforts in their first meeting. The scorecards on that night were ridiculously narrow, so in theory Canelo only needs to huff and puff a little harder in two more rounds to impress the easily swayed Las Vegas officials.
CANELO LEAVES A STRING OF UK VICTIMS
Since hitting his stride, Canelo has made a habit of icing fighters from a particular region. Eight bumbling Brits have fallen, mostly by brutal KO. First on the chopping block was Matthew Hatton who fought a green version of the Jalisco native in 2011 for the vacant WBC 154-pound crown. While Hatton was not as talented as his esteemed brother, the Manchester man was very durable and did well to soak up his lumps for the full 12 rounds in California.
Once a slick mover from Sheffield known as the ‘Spice Boy’, Ryan Rhodes was near to the end whenever Canelo bashed him closer to retirement in his first title defence, three months later.
Photo Credit: Boxing Scene
The most brutal destruction came in 2016 when Canelo iced Amir Khan with a right hand from the gods in round six (see above). Speedy Khan was doing OK before he was touched lightly to the body and heavy to the jaw.
Before Ryder stepped forward, Liverpool’s Liam Smith did better than most when he stood up to many barrages before succumbing to a Texas head and body onslaught in round nine.
Liam offered considerably more offensive threat than his brother Callum who was too weight drained to impose any kind of physical presence when he lost to Canelo in late 2020.
Sandwiched in between the two fighting Smiths was Rocky Fielding who folded in three as Canelo took a break from rescuing his brother from kidnappers to dismantle the Stockport puncher’s torso.
In May, 2021, the latest of the victims was put to rest as WBO champ Billy Joe Saunders had his face rearranged. Many thought the southpaw’s style would provide issues. Some neat moments aside, Saunders did little to dent the confidence of a champion swiftly gathering silverware. Will we see a ninth victim?
No real domestic action to speak of this week, but a couple of fairly intriguing Stateside cards. Rolando Romero now faces veteran Ismael Barroso after WBA super-lightweight champion Alberto Puello tested positive for a banned substance. It’s a shame on a couple of levels as that was a tasty fight. Also, another champion getting popped is not a good look for the sport.
Photo Credit: WBA/Showtime
While that fight headlines in Las Vegas, over in Stockton, Zhanibek Alimkhanuly defends his WBO middleweight title against Canada’s Steven Butler. The Kazakh champion needs a strong showing after struggling down the stretch in his last fight against Denzel Bentley. Butler is a decent boxer but tends to lose whenever he steps up. Zhanibek will be gunning for a stoppage.
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About Steve: Experienced boxing writer, author of 8 books and podcaster of over 400 eps. 15+ years in the sport. Covered hundreds of shows for newspapers and Boxing News magazine. Chief script writer for Motivedia channel. For enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org.