This weekend’s boxing main event sees Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez coming home, with his first fight in Mexico for more than a decade. A 50,000 capacity stadium should offer a hell of an atmosphere. His opponent, the Brit John Ryder, isn’t the most heralded, but he won’t be there to lie down, and in many ways could offer more excitement than other British opponents who have stepped in with the champion.
The fight will be available on DAZN PPV in the US and DAZN streaming wherever it’s available worldwide. The main card will start at 7PM ET, with ringwalks on the main event expected 11PM ET.
The Preview: How did Canelo and Ryder get here?
Canelo’s career is in an odd place right now. By any reasonable measure, he’s still at the top of the tree. Losing once, above his best weight and to a Dmitry Bivol who is ever more clearly a genuinely brilliant fighter, shouldn’t write him off at all. He still holds all the belts at super-middleweight, and fighters in and around that division are still falling over themselves to get that phonecall. He’s won since, too, beating Gennady Golovkin to settle their rivalry.
And yet. Something of the aura has come off. If he’d lost to Bivol only by virtue of size, that would be won thing. But he didn’t. He got comprehensively outskilled. Even those who believe he lost both his first two fights with Golovkin will acknowledge it was an even matchup, and that Alvarez never looked perturbed or lost for ideas. Not so against Bivol, who just outclassed him.
The third win against Golovkin, too, raised questions. Sure, he won clearly, but Golovkin was 40, and very visibly past his best days. And yet, towards the end of the fight, it was the older man who had more energy and was pushing the pace. It was convincing, as a win, but as a statement that Canelo’s still got it… less so.
So that’s what he’s coming in needing, here. It may be why he’s finally going home. He needs to put on a show, and what better place to do it than in front of 50,000 hometown fans.
John Ryder, of course, will want to upset the applecart. He’s got some level of form, too – officially, he lost to Callum Smith in 2019, but everyone watching (apart from the judges) knows he was robbed. More recently, he also beat Daniel Jacobs, a former opponent of both Golovkin and Canelo, last year. In that one, he was the beneficiary of controversial cards himself, but not to the same extent- and even if one scored a loss, he acquitted himself well.
Either way, he’s a far cry from the fighter who’d been dropping decisions in regional British fights in 2016 and ‘17, At 34 he’s no spring chicken, but he’s built up a head of steam, and he’ll have no intention of just letting Canelo parade in front of his fans.
Canelo vs Ryder: The Breakdown
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: Canelo should win this. He’s far more experienced at far higher levels, and Ryder really does none of the things Bivol used to get the win. Most notably, he has a tendency to struggle to get his timing working, and for an aggressive boxer against a counterpuncher of Canelo’s quality, that’s a horrible weakness to have.
So where’s the interest? Well: Ryder is an aggressive fighter against a counterpuncher of Canelo’s quality. That should bring a fun fight whatever the outcome, however long it lasts. But- as unlikely as it is that he’ll eke out a win- there are some little signs that Ryder might get some work done, especially if he can survive the early rounds. Let’s take a look how it breaks down.
So, as noted, Ryder is likely to be coming at Alvarez quite strongly here. A southpaw, he typically starts with a jab that he throws from low down, then moves in behind it to start roughing his opponent up in close. He’s typically at his best when he’s already moving as he throws the jab, crunching the space between them quickly, but it does generally take him a while before he’s comfortable doing that. Early on in fights, he’s more likely to be poking it out at distance, moving his head, and trying to slide in after.
That low-hand jab has its advantages, but it’s likely to be a problem for him here. It makes it a lot harder for an opponent to read, the main reason for fighting in that stance. And although he usually brings it back low too, his defence isn’t bad for all that, with decent head movement afterwards to keep himself safe.
But he isn’t fighting just anyone. He’s fighting Canelo, probably the best fighter around right now at working off his opponent’s jab. Despite all the above, Danny Jacobs did in the first half of their fight manage to catch Ryder repeatedly as or after he threw it. If he could, Canelo certainly will, and his own head movement will make the jab itself less effective. In other words, the first building block of Ryder’s game will likely be working for Canelo.
He’ll have problems beyond that too, because although his defence is solid when he’s on the defensive, and while building up, it tends to get a lot more ropey when throwing, and when exiting exchanges. He tends to prioritise roughing his opponent up and hassling them consistently over cleanness of form. That approach, also, has its advantages- hell, Canelo himself did something like that against Caleb Plant. But Ryder can leave his chin open while throwing wide loopy shots, and because he wants to stick to his opponent rather than reset and re-engage, he doesn’t fix his stance in between combinations.
For Alvarez, that’s an open invitation. He’ll slip and catch far more of Ryder’s work than any of his opponents to date, and he’ll be looking for opportunity to throw his counter combinations into those wide-open gaps in the defence. He will certainly deliver some punishment, in those moments.
Probably the big question in this fight, technique-wise, is what version of Canelo we see. Ever since the second fight with Golovkin, he’s generally been a front-foot fighter, seeking to control the pace and direction of the fight. The exact techniques have differed slightly, but it’s generally been a story of backing his opponents up, not letting them get comfortable but also keeping the pace steady, not too rapid.
In the early days though, he tended to show his counter-punching more purely, fading to the ropes deliberately to bait attacks he could answer. Wins like those over Liam Smith and James Kirkland showcase that very well. He hasn’t done that since that first Golovkin fight, six years ago now, so it’s unclear if he’s still comfortable doing so – but it could be the perfect answer to Ryder’s style.
The main concern for Canelo- the main hope for Ryder- comes not from anything in the BIvol loss, but in that third win over Golovkin. It may, too, be what dictates the tactic Canelo runs with here. Put simply, despite winning clearly he ended that fight running out of gas in an inexcusable way. Stamina was a problem for him from early in his career, and never quite went away, but having gone 12 hard rounds twice with a prime Golovkin, he’d clearly learned how to manage it.
That was a lot of what that change in style in his career was about: by controlling the pace, pushing forward when and how he wanted, he could choose how much energy he expended. Against Bivol he tired, but that was expected- Bivol never let him settle, and dictated the terms of engagement. It stood to reason that Canelo would run out of puff, and it wasn’t egregious.
Against Golovkin though, it was a different story. The first half of the fight was entirely at the pace Canelo wanted. Golovkin was clearly showing his age, and couldn’t get his work going early at all. Not even in the sense of ‘trying things but failing to get there’ – in the early rounds he was throwing less than 40 punches a round, when in his heyday he’d typically be in the 60s and 70s at least. Any energy Canelo expended was on his own terms. There was no excuse to gas.
And yet, he did. He never ended in any real danger, but the last third of the fight he slowed very clearly. He didn’t actually throw less punches- so he wasn’t exhausted- but his defence dropped, he got tagged more, and Golovkin got back into it.
Now, Ryder is not Golovkin. But he also isn’t 40, and he is a fighter with an engine. He wasn’t really in the fight with Jacobs in the first 6- it was the second half where he got all his work in. Against Smith, he fought a hard 12, pushing Smith from beginning to end. And, although he does leave himself vulnerable, he is a rough opponent in close- constantly shoving and pulling his opponents about. If he can survive the early rounds, he maybe, just maybe, can start to prey on that weakness in Canelo as the fight goes on.
So that’s the story. Canelo should be able to put on a show for his fans- and is fighting an opponent who can help him do that- but he’s got to be just a bit careful. If he wants to resurrect that aura, polish the image, he’s got to look slick from beginning to end, and if he lets it get to the end… well, he might not. So let’s see what he comes up with.
What’s on the Canelo vs Ryder undercard?
The undercard’s features a few stories worth keeping an eye on. In the co-main, Julio Cesar Martinez was once considered one of the most exciting fighters in the lower divisions. He had an absolute disaster of a year in 2022 though. He found himself absolutely dominated by Roman Gonzalez, at superfly then scraped a win in an embarrassing, confusing performance against a one-handed Samuel Carmona back down at his more natural flyweight.
He was supposed to be defending his flyweight belt against McWilliams Arroyo here, but an injury has given us a bout vs the unheralded Ronald Batista instead. What that means is either JCM will look as explosive as he used to against an opponent a bit below the level he’s struggled with, or we’ll have further questions.
Beyond that, light-heavyweight Oleksandr Gvozdyk returns for the first time since his brutal loss to Artur Beterbiev in 2019. Well, he did have a comeback fight in February, but that was a light touch win against a fighter with a losing record. His opponent here, Ricards Bolotniks, is the sort of level Gvozdyk was winning impressively against before his time out, but he’s the perfect opponent to test if there’s any sort of world level return on the cards here. This one’s interesting because Gvozdyk is a fun fighter and good addition to the division if he’s close to his best.
The other fight on the main card is a fun matchup between 140lb contenders Steve Spark and Gabriel Valenzuela. The Australian, Spark, caught some notice in the US in November when he beat the till-then rising Montana Love albeit in a bizarre disqualification when a frustrated Love flipped Spark out of the ring. Valenzuela is himself a former Montana Love opponent, having lost a narrow decision to him six months before that. The closeness of both fights suggests a well-matched contest, and Spark at least is a fighter generally willing to push the action, so it could be a fun one.
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