It was one of boxing’s most poorly kept secrets. Any even marginally keyed-in boxing fan could’ve told you since last fall who Mexican superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was probably going to be fighting next.
Super middleweight contender John Ryder had been on the periphery of contention for a bout with Alvarez for a while. But, after Alvarez’s big money third bout with Gennadiy Golovkin last September, a loss to Dmitry Bivol the May before that– following an impressive 4-fights in eleven months run that saw him unify all four belts in the 168 lb. division– the UK’s Ryder seemed a bit like the last man standing from the semi-short list of likely opponents. The Brit’s ties to promoter Eddie Hearn, who has been Canelo’s recent promoter of choice, would also give Ryder an inside track to the big opportunity.
Well, the strong hunch turned into a fact on Tuesday when the press conference was held to officially confirm Alvarez vs. Ryder for May 6 in Akron Stadium in Alvarez’s home town of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.
“For me, you know, Saul’s last few fights have been in Las Vegas,” Hearn said during Tuesday’s presser. “And the best fights, the greatest nights for me, although Vegas is amazing, is the stadium fights. We’ve seen him at the Alamodome, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Dallas Cowboys’, 70,000, incredible. But this will beat them all. And the answer to your question is he decided that money didn’t matter. He wanted to deliver for his people.”
“Every time that Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez fights, the world is watching,” Hearn continued. “Every country in the world wants to host a Canelo Alvarez fight. And Eddy [Reynoso] said to me, ‘Guadalajara. Mexico. That’s where we must fight.’ I said, ‘Hang on one second. We have an offer from the Middle East. We have an offer from Las Vegas, Los Angeles, England.’ Eddy and Saul said, ‘No. Stop. It must be Mexico. We must come home.’ And I’m so happy that they are doing it, because this is a fight and a moment that will be remembered in the history of Mexican boxing and Mexican sport forever.”
Alvarez, who will be fighting in his home country for the first time since 2011, put on the happy face for the press conference in Guadalajara.
“I feel really happy to be coming back in May because following my [wrist] surgery, I was unsure of when I’d be coming back,” Alvarez said. “Returning to the ring and coming back to fight in Jalisco, where I’m from, makes me especially happy. And in John Ryder, I’m facing a very competitive fighter.”
Since the Ryder rumor began, up until Tuesday’s confirmation, fans have criticized the idea of an Alvarez-Ryder fight. They have trashed the former interim WBA super middleweight champ’s status as a worthy foe for the high-profile B-side slot.
The 34-year-old Ryder, however, is plugging forward, insisting that he deserves this shot and will prove his worthiness on May 6.
“It seemed like a lifetime away months and years ago,” Ryder said. “But I’m finally here now and I feel like I really do deserve to be here. I’ve paid my dues in this sport and I’ve earned this shot three times over for me. So, yeah, I feel like I really deserve to be here and deserve this shot.”
“Don’t shoot me down,” Ryder insisted. “I’m still dreaming, so let me live my dream. And listen, keep your opinions to yourself. I’m not reading them, don’t care. I’m doing this for me. I’m not doing it for you. Go about your business. Life can’t be that bad that you gotta worry about me too much.”