John Ryder (32-5-0, 18KOs) has got what he wished for – a dance with the devil in his own backyard against pound-for-pound star Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (58-2-2, 39KOs).
The Londoner challenges the Mexican for his undisputed super-middleweight crown in Guadalajara’s Estadio Akron on Saturday as he bids to land one of the great victories by a British fighter on away soil.
The magnitude of the task facing him cannot and should not be underplayed – Canelo already holds seven wins in as many outings against Brits to his name as he heads back to fight in Mexico for the first time in 12 years.
Having claimed world titles in four separate weight divisions, he is rightly heralded as the face of the sport – boasting numbers in both ticket sales and PPV buys which dwarf the majority of his competitors.
Though it didn’t live up to the heights set by their two initial encounters, Canelo most recently dominated old rival Gennadiy Golovkin in September to mark an anti-climactic end to an enthralling trilogy.
Eddie Hearn, who co-promotes this weekend’s event alongside Canelo Promotions, has however mooted that Ryder might be facing the Mexican at the perfect time.
Although he’s only 32, Canelo has already endured 62 pro contests since he turned over at the age of 15.
Only two have ended in defeat – to Floyd Mayweather in 2013 and recently to WBA light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol 12 months ago.
The latter saw Canelo out-sized, out-gunned and out-boxed at Las Vegas’ T-Mobile Arena as he lost on all three judge’s scorecards.
Surgery to his wrist at the end of last year has only added to claims that Ryder might have timed his shot to the tee, though he has not fought anyone even close to the man he will trade blows with this weekend.
His best win comes against two-weight champion Daniel Jacobs last year – a man many felt he was fortunate to be awarded victory against, and an opponent Canelo duly took care of over 12 rounds three years prior.
Whether claims that Canelo is in decline hold weight, a Ryder win will surely stand out as one of the greatest overseas by a British fighter.
It’s not just the abilities of the Mexican that might stand against him – Canelo has often been accused of receiving favourable decisions in the past.
WBC President Mauricio Suliaman insisted that the officiating will be fair during fight week before heralding the return of the nation’s hero.
Whether or not the judges will be needed remains to be seen, but Ryder has long called for a shot at one of the sport’s big names – it is now a case of whether he has bitten off far more than he can chew.
The undercard in Mexico also sees a host of local talent appear as WBC flyweight champion Julio Cesar Martinez (19-2-0, 14KOs) defend his strap against Panama’s Ronal Batista (15-2-0, 9KOs).
Martinez, who has long been linked with a fight against Britain’s Sunny Edwards, returned to winning ways over 12 rounds in December after losing to super-flyweight great Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez nine months prior.
Jalisco super-lightweight Gabriel Valenzuela (26-3-1, 16KOs) also faces Australia’s Steve Spark (16-2-0, 14KOs) over ten rounds.
Valenzuela upset Liverpool’s Robbie Davies Jr with a ten-round decision in February 2021.
Former WBC light-heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk (18-1-0, 14KOs) also continues his return against Latvia’s Ricards Bolotniks (19-6-1, 8KOs) over ten.
The card will be shown live on DAZN and forms part of your normal subscription in the UK and Ireland.