JOHN RYDER sits at the end of his couch in his London flat and scoops up his TV’s remote control. He holds it in his hands, the same ones that went 12 hard rounds with boxing’s franchise Canelo Alvarez a few weeks earlier, and turns the flatscreen on.

The softly-spoken “Gorilla” scrolls through some menus, settles on DAZN, and starts to load the network. He’s watched the fight back twice since that incredible night in the Guadalajara cauldron on May 6, when he and Canelo shared 12 blood-soaked rounds in front of 60,000 fans.

After the contest, there were a smattering of lines about the 32-year-old Mexican great being in decline, but the majority of reports focused on Ryder’s bravery. The Islington underdog had ventured into the lion’s den. Ryder had his nose obliterated with the last punch of the second round. He was floored in round five, under heavy fire in the ninth but, in the end, he had won the crowd and claimed a moral victory, finishing the fight with an awe-inspiring defiance, unable to breathe through his nose having spent 30 minutes swallowing torrents of his own blood.

The spoils of war? Ryder has since been able to buy his first house.

As we rewatch the fight, about four floors up in a central block of flats, Ryder searches DAZN. Whether it is modesty or humility, one can’t tell, but Ryder clicks on the magnifying glass logo to find his fight and starts typing. ‘C… A… N….’

“There it is,” he says, as Canelo v Ryder pops up.


Well, there are other options that appear on DAZN’s menu. For a start, as we investigate, there are ‘Canelo Classics’, but they feature the Mexican’s fights with Avni Yildirim, the third go-round with Gennady Golovkin, and the Billy Joe Saunders clash. Ryder’s hasn’t fallen into that category.

You can also watch Canelo’s ringwalk for Ryder in its entirety, but you cannot see Ryder’s and that’s not on the full-fight broadcast, either.

Of course, none if it fazes Ryder. He knew what the assignment was. Many felt Ryder was a gimme, stay-busy-type fight for Canelo, but Ryder did not care about their opinions, the same way he is not bothered about being able to see his own ringwalk.

After a long camp with Tony Sims, the team flew out to Los Angeles two weeks before the fight. But in Culver City, Ryder could not settle. He didn’t like the smog, he dreaded something going wrong; twisting an ankle, getting cut, anything that might throw the fight into any kind of jeopardy. So he trained to get through it rather than to peak. Instantly, in Guadalajara – with the fight just six days away – he was more relaxed. The weather was better, not too hot, and he welcomed by the fans.

“Honestly, they were fantastic,” he recalls. “It was a really humbling experience. Where Canelo is on this pedestal as a superstar, I don’t think they like that, because he’s no longer that man of the people.”

Ryder got in amongst the general population. He visited a barbers, went to the shops, the supermarket, and was mobbed for selfies. Sometimes, he went out by himself. “I think people were quite shocked by it,” he says, smiling. Ryder certainly was. “I don’t get that attention back here!”

Ryder had spoken to Canelo before the Mexican’s bout with Billy Joe Saunders, but through their own engagements on fight week, little was said. Ryder was a fan of Canelo but he was there on business and Canelo was not interested in civilities.

Ryder held court with the press on fight week and the US journalists did not bother to go. Was Ryder fussed? “I didn’t really want to answer questions anyway,” he says. “I just wanted to get to the fight.


Ryder was kept waiting in the corridor before his own ring entrance, but he was prepared for that. In fact, the work he did with mindset coach Greg Meehan had him ready to walk through walls.

Ryder was in some kind of controlled frenzy on fight night and as we watch Canelo’s magnificent walk to the ring, the 100-plus-piece Mariachi band, the fireworks and the rest of it, it all seemed almost new to Ryder. On the night, it was deliberately blurred out. No boos. No cheers.

“I was waiting for Canelo, [but] it wasn’t Canelo, it was just another man… not the superstar he is, just another fighter.”

Then, when Canelo emerges on the stage, the crowd roars. “I can’t remember that,” Ryder says. And the pound-for-pound great, a heavy favourite to separate Ryder from his senses at some stage in the fight, starts walking towards him. Is there a point where it sinks in, and Ryder knows how big this is? “No,” recalls Ryder. “If I had let myself get engrossed in all that and the magnitude of the event, the razzmatazz, I might have just folded and been caught in the headlights. I did well to block it out. None of that bothered me.”

Now, however, he can see it through different eyes; as a fan, as someone who’s given it his all. “That was a good atmosphere, that was packed out,” he says, as the DAZN cameras pan out and around the vast Estadio Akron. “I didn’t really see all the people in the stands during the fight. Looking back, seeing the pictures of the stadium, fireworks going off… it’s surreal. I just had tunnel vision. Looking back now, it’s spectacular, isn’t it?”


When Ryder came face-to-face with Canelo, the red-headed icon stared down, and Ryder did not know what to make of it.

“I like to have a look in someone’s eyes, but he didn’t do that,” Ryder added. “I went to make eye contact and it wasn’t there and I thought, ‘If you’re not going to do it, I’m not going to do it to you.’”

Ryder looked awkwardly away, too, but after the bell – and with Canelo coming at him, hoping to impress his compatriots in his first fight at home in 12 years – Ryder wanted to be patient, get a gauge of Canelo’s speed, watch him, see when he throws and not buy any of Canelo’s feints.

“When he threw that first right hand, I thought, ‘I spotted that a mile off. It wasn’t fast,’” Ryder remembers.

Then, Ryder’s idea was to implement his own grit and stubbornness, never retreating to the ropes – certainly not getting caught on them – and not allowing Canelo to get second-phase attacks off. When Canelo threw shots and stopped, Ryder would have to reply immediately.

It was risky, but a clear sign that Ryder would not be bullied by his opponent or intimidated by the occasion.

“Good first round, I might have nicked that round,” he remembers thinking, walking back to his corner. “He [Canelo] didn’t land anything. I caught pretty much everything that he threw.”

Round two was not dissimilar. Ryder expected Canelo to commit more, to throw more, due to his pre-fight pledges of an early stoppage. The crowd started to get behind their man with the three syllable “Ca-ne-lo” chants and then, with the final blow of the round, Canelo caught Ryder with a right hand and his nose exploded. “It’s frustrating,” Ryder says. “I stepped over the front foot and I caught it.”

Ryder takes it to Alvarez (Melina Pizano/Matchroom)


“It was instant. Instantly. I felt it come pouring out. It was a new experience. I’d never felt that before. Just feeling the blood pouring straight away.”

A minute was not enough to fix a shattered nose. When Ryder emerged for the third, the crimson was pumping down his chest and clogging his nose. He could only breathe by opening his mouth and that was detrimental for a couple of reasons. Firstly, in his preparations with Meehan, they had worked on staying relaxed through nasal breathing. Now, in the midst of a crisis, Ryder needed to stay as relaxed as possible, but nasal breathing was firmly off the menu. Secondly, it sent unhelpful and partially untrue distress signals to Canelo.

“It’s kidology and not showing that you’re hurt but you know if you’re bleeding like that, you’re losing that battle and breathing through your mouth you look tired, too,” Ryder says.

It wasn’t just Canelo’s attacks Ryder had to micro-manage. Ryder had to now stint his own aggression, too. Ryder would hold his breath, throw a one-two, and then have to retreat so he could take another breath through his mouth and either brace himself for a Canelo attack, or will himself forward to initiate. He was sucking down the blood, a constant stream ran both from his nose and down his throat and, as the contest wore on, it mixed with his sweat and he downed round after round of the salty red syrup. In more than 15 years of fighting, it’s the first time Ryder’s nose has been broken. “I was speaking to my aunt about it yesterday,” Ryder says, grinning. “She said, ‘I’m surprised, I thought you’d had it broken loads of times!’”

After three rounds, coach Tony Sims had to make way for cornerman Mark Seltzer to tend to Ryder’s injury, with Sims having to pass on his instructions from outside the ropes. “Seltzer was trying to tidy me up and was telling me to breathe,” Ryder explains. But that was easier said than done. “Then he put a cold, wet flannel on my face and I struggled even more.”

The nose did not change the strategy, but it altered the way Ryder had to fight. “The plan was never to be on my bike and scoot around the outside of the ring,” he admits. “It was definitely to take it to him a bit more. I wonder… I feel like I could have outmuscled him more if I had the ability to stay in there and mix it a bit more. At times, I was wrestling with him and moving him around pretty easily. If I could have kept that up, I could have had more success. But I couldn’t breathe in there.”


Being unable to breathe through his nose became Ryder’s new normal. Looking at the fight, there are spells when he says, “I don’t remember being this active, this busy, so I must have gone into an instinctive mode.”

Ryder was dropped in the fifth, a right hand followed a jab and John was on the end of it. It weren’t a massive shot,” Ryder recounts. “The backhand came, I took it, I went to lean against the ropes and come back again and the ropes weren’t there, so I took a seat.”

He was pleased the count was not in Spanish, because he picked it up and bided his time to stand. As I looked round to look at Tony, I saw my missus, Nancy,” Ryder continues. “I looked at Tony and he was like, ‘Stay down, take the count [up to eight].’ And I saw Nancy and she was like, ‘Stay down.’ I’m thinking, ‘I’m not going to get counted out here.’ I waited for the eight and I was thinking, ‘If she means stay down and end the fight, then she’s definitely going to give me a bollocking when it’s over [for getting back up]!’”

It was the first knockdown of Ryder’s 38-fight career. But he was still in it to win it. “I would have got paid the same amount for finishing now as I would going 12 rounds, but it was never in me to stay down,” he says.

Blood was flying out of Ryder’s nose. Canelo’s white boots were splattered pink. In the middle rounds, Ryder starts to stand up in the minute’s rest, not as another sign of defiance but because he was struggling to breathe on his stool.

The fight was moving away from him and it was brutal. There’s a spell when the Mexicans in the audience call for his head, wanting Canelo to land the highlight reel finale they had paid to see. But they hadn’t bet on Ryder’s doggedness. “This was a time when I was thinking, I’m not going to quit, so you’re going to have to knock me out,” he says, shaking his head as his plunders forward again, catching Canelo with an uppercut of his own. Ryder was still landing plenty, too, but agrees that there is a spell around seven to nine when he’s in the eye of the storm. “Rocky was my favourite,” he says with a chuckle. “I know that was Russia. But to go to someone’s hometown and go to war with them… I’m thinking, ‘There’s only four rounds left, you’ve not knocked me out yet – and there’s no way I’m going to quit.’”

The ninth round was rough, but stubbornness overruled sense. Ryder dropped his hands and beckoned Canelo to go after him. “Crazy!” he says, watching it back. “I still had a lot of success there. I know I was ice-skating at times [reeling around the ring but in control of his legs, he explains], and looking at it now, it’s exciting to watch. All fundamentals went out the window.”


Through the championship rounds Ryder felt Canelo slowing but knew time had all but run out. He did not think he could stop Canelo with one shot, and a sustained cumulative attack was impossible as he kept having to step back for breath.

When the final bell went, neither celebrated. Canelo was exhausted and Ryder had felt him tiring late on. It had been hard. Ryder had grizzled out 12 tough rounds, Canelo endured a much tougher 12 than he had bargained for; than he needed at 32 years of age and after more than 60 pro fights.

Trainer Sims messaged me a day later saying had it been a 15-round fight, John would have caught up to Canelo! Ryder’s courage and guts were highlighted on social media, but it was the respect of his peers, like Darren Barker, Carl Frampton and Kell Brook that meant most to him.

Of course, some cynics questioned why he was getting so much praise, but that is to be expected these days. “Boxing crowd’s a tough crowd to please sometimes,” he responds.

“Why are you giving him credit? Have you been in that position? Have you had blood dripping down the back of your throat? Have you had your face pouring with blood?”

The post-fight images were not the ones the challenger had wanted. He had screwed up bandages shoved up his nose, causing the nostrils to flare, and he had to have tape across it for three hours.

“I’ve gone in the changing room to see Canelo, and I’ve got this f****** tape across my nose and then I’ve gone to the press conference and I’m answering question after question and I’m still having to breathe through my mouth and sound like a duck!”

There weren’t many exchanges with Canelo afterwards, either. Ryder thought Canelo was bothered that he had not been able to stop him and that explained why the champion was not vocal post-fight. “I’m still a massive fan [of Canelo], don’t get me wrong,” Ryder says. “But I’ve been there and done it now. He’s human. He’s definitely got a big ego. He definitely knows who he is and what he’s about, and I think that shows now.”

The harsh scorecards, 120-107 and two of 118-109, didn’t do Ryder’s efforts justice. He felt he’d won maybe four or five rounds, not six. But as much as he had covered himself in blood, he had covered himself in glory.

The week in LA had felt like a lifetime ago, the fanfare in Mexico from a different time and the nightmarish blood, the gore and the bravery are now just a dream from a couple of short months ago. “I was driving along yesterday thinking, ‘Did I dream that or did it really happen?’” Ryder says, perched on the end of his settee, about to turn the screen blank. “And it really happened. Other than the result, there was nothing I would change about it.”