Beating Canelo Alvarez has proved to be one of the most difficult challenges in boxing over the past decade. Getting the better of him in front of 60,000 Mexican fans in his hometown of Guadalajara could be considered nigh on impossible.
That was the task facing Britain’s John Ryder in May.
He could hardly have got off to a worse start either. In the second round, Ryder’s nose was busted open by a vicious uppercut. Three rounds later, a thunderous straight right hand sent him to the canvas. The writing appeared to be on the wall.
Many would have considered staying down, but that thought never crossed Ryder’s mind. Three months on from that surreal night in Mexico, the 35-year-old is adamant he had no choice but to keep fighting back.
‘The credit you get for just getting up and carrying, it means a lot more,’ Ryder explained to Mail Sport.
John Ryder (right) had his nose busted open by Canelo Alvarez (left) early in their fight in May
He was knocked down in the fifth round after being caught by a straight right hand
Ryder kept fighting back, and finished the contest on his feet as he suffered a loss on points
‘And you wouldn’t have all these people patting you on the back and saying “fair play”. If you stayed down and didn’t beat the count they’d talk about you behind your back, so for me that means a lot.
‘I can hold my head up high in places and know I gave it my all.’
There can be no doubting the heart Ryder showed after taking several heavy shots in the early stages of the world title clash.
He openly admits having his nose broken did initially unsettle him, but after navigating his way to the midway point of the contest, Ryder decided it was time to start showing what he could do.
‘The last punch of the second round broke my nose. Total new experience having my nose broken, only being able to breath out my mouth, and just a real spanner in the works,’ he said.
‘For a few rounds after I felt sorry for myself and then round six came and I felt “no, he’s not got me out of here, he’s not going to, so he can have it back now”. And I just really went for it then.’
As the fight entered the championship rounds, Ryder was clearly behind on points but continued to push forward and deservedly heard the final bell.
As the scorecards were read out, Canelo unsurprisingly got his hand raised as he picked up the 59th win of his professional career.
Canelo has only lost twice since his debut in October 2005, establishing himself as a modern-day great.
But what makes him one of the best of his generation? The Mexican superstar is often giving up height and reach advantages to his opponents, but still manages to come out on top.
Having shared 12 rounds with Canelo, Ryder believes his intelligence in the ring gives him the edge over his rivals.
‘He’s very good. Nothing he does is rushed, he does everything in his own time,’ Ryder added.
Ryder feels Canelo’s in-ring intelligence gives him the edge over his opponents
‘It sounds weird, even when you think you’re having success, you come to realise now that he’s letting you have a bit, he’s looking at you, he’s seeing what mistakes you make, where he can capitalise and after two rounds I paid a massive price by falling on that uppercut and breaking my nose. So you can see how quick he downloads information and he reacts to it.
‘His ring IQ, he’s 10 steps ahead of you. He knows what he’s doing. His timing is very impressive, his power’s not massive, I wouldn’t say he’s a massive puncher, but the way he times the shots is perfection.
‘Just the way he knows where he is in the ring at all times, how to put you in certain positions. He is a real great fighter.’
Ryder took plenty of punishment in Guadalajara, and some boxers are never quite the same again after those kind of defeats.
But Ryder insists he will only improve after facing one of the sport’s elite fighters, and is itching to get back in the squared circle.
Ryder continued: ‘The things I learnt in there that night, take them to the next camp with me and work on things, and it can only make me a better fighter.
‘You’ve got to mix at these levels to know what it’s like to go back to that level again. I’d be so much better for doing it now having fought Canelo. It was a massive lesson. I’ve learned tons from it. I just can’t wait to fight again and actually put into practice what I’ve learnt.’
Canelo currently has all four super-middleweight belts and is set to defend them against America’s Jermell Charlo next month.
But there are still a number of intriguing fights on the table for Ryder. Top of his wishlist is a showdown with ex-middleweight king Gennady Golovkin, who is contemplating a farewell fight in his homeland of Kazakhstan.
But he is also willing to take on unbeaten duo Edgar Berlanga and Jaime Munguia, or another former Canelo victim, Caleb Plant, to keep himself in the title picture.
Ryder wants to stay active and has called for a fight with Gennady Golovkin (pictured)
Ryder has been beaten in both of his world title attempts, but still feels he can win a belt
Ryder lost a razor-thin decision to fellow Brit Callum Smith when he received his first world title shot in 2019, and came up short against Canelo, but he is keen to remain active as he seeks to make it third time lucky.
‘I want to be straight back into the big fights. I know Golovkin wants another fight, Munguia, Berlanga, Caleb Plant. Any of these fights, I’m up for these,’ Ryder said.
‘I want to operate at the level I’ve been operating at, I want to continue there. Any of these big fights, I’m more than happy to take part in.
‘What’s happening with the titles I can’t afford to sit down and wait around to see what’s happening next. For me now it’s the biggest and the best fights that help me to get a world title should it become available.’