Undisputed super middleweight boxing king Saul “Canelo” Alvarez will bid to make a triumphant return to Mexican soil on Saturday when he faces British challenger John Ryder in his hometown of Guadalajara.
An estimated crowd of 55,000 is expected to pack the Akron Stadium for an open-air championship bout that is boxing icon Alvarez’s first fight in Mexico in nearly 12 years.
Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 knockouts) is the overwhelming favorite to retain his WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO belts against mandatory challenger Ryder (32-5, 18 knockouts) in a fight scheduled to coincide with Mexico’s Cinco de Mayo national holiday weekend.
The 32-year-old ringmaster is reveling in the opportunity to fight before fans in Guadalajara, where as a child he sold ice cream out of a van alongside his father before going on to become a boxing superstar.
“I feel very proud and happy to bring this fight to Guadalajara and give the people some of the experience I have in other places as the best in the world,” Alvarez told reporters at a recent training camp in San Diego.
“It’s the perfect time. A long time ago I wanted to fight in Guadalajara, but I think this is the perfect moment, the perfect fight to bring to Guadalajara.”
Alvarez, regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing, heads into the bout after a mixed 2022.
‘Nothing to lose’
He was well beaten by Dmitri Bivol last May after stepping up to light heavyweight, before laboring to a unanimous victory over old rival Gennadiy Golovkin in September.
Alvarez later underwent surgery on his left hand to address a long-running ligament problem.
Alvarez insists, however, that he is ready to quash any suggestion he may be a spent force.
“I’m so excited to show everybody they’re wrong,” he said of critics. “I’m very excited and motivated. Be careful with that.”
Alvarez acknowledges, though, that his opponent Ryder, who heads into the bout on a run of four straight wins, has nothing to lose.
“He has everything to win, nothing to lose, right?” Alvarez said. “He’s always there, fighting with the good fighters trying to get that opportunity, and now he has got it.
“It’s going to be a danger for me, but I feel good.”
The 34-year-old Ryder echoed Alvarez’s comments.
“The pressure’s on him,” Ryder said this week. “I feel like I can enjoy this. No pressure on me, it’s all on him.”
The fact remains, however, that Ryder, who has vowed to take an aggressive approach in Saturday’s bout, is a heavy underdog.
Three of the Londoner’s five career defeats have come against fighters that Alvarez dismantled emphatically — Callum Smith, Rocky Fielding and Billy Joe Saunders. A Ryder victory this weekend would send shockwaves through the boxing world.
Ryder, though, is adamant he has earned the right to face off against Alvarez following solid wins last year over Zach Parker and Daniel Jacobs.
“I’ve dug deep. I’ve done what I’ve had to do. I’ve worked hard to get back into this mandatory position, took the right fights at the right times, and I’m just really pleased to be here,” Ryder said.
“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career, been unfairly unjudged at times with results that should have gone my way but didn’t, so I feel this is my chance at redemption, to right the wrongs and cement my legacy.”
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