John Ryder feels considerably less pressure heading into this weekend than was the case in his lone other fight on the year.
The veteran super middleweight believes it is countryman Zach Parker who is in the hot seat in their all-British matchup with the interim WBO title fight at stake on Saturday live on BT Sport and ESPN+ from The O2 in London. Ryder enters the fight on the heels of a twelve-round points win over former middleweight titlist Daniel Jacobs on February 12, in a fight where he sensed that a loss would have reduced his standing to gatekeeper status.
“I saw the Jacobs fight as sort of last chance saloon,” Ryder admitted of his previous outing. “It took the enjoyment out of camp, I didn’t enjoy that fight week.
“For this one, I’m here to embrace it and enjoy the moment. I’ve got a dangerous opponent in front of me but I’ve been here time and time again. I’m looking forward to getting the job done on Saturday and moving forward for all the marbles.”
Ryder (31-5, 17KOs) rebounded from a close, disputed points loss to then-unbeaten WBA super middleweight titlist Callum Smith with a two-fight win streak preceding his showdown with Brooklyn’s Jacobs (37-4, 30KOs) at Alexandra Palace in the Muswell Hill section of London. The British southpaw was a slight underdog despite boasting hometown advantage with the fight taking place less than 20 minutes from his Islington hometown.
An expected loss would have left Ryder as just another notable name for rising contenders such as Parker, rather than a title threat. Ryder rode a strong second half surge to edge Jacobs on two of the three scorecards, leaving him in the right place at the right time when Parker was in need of an opponent for a sought interim WBO super middleweight title fight.
The winner of this weekend’s main event will be named WBO mandatory challenger to undisputed super middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (58-2-2, 39KOs). Parker is a -200 favorite to prevail according to bet365 Sportsbook, despite the 28-year-old Derbyshire native facing his most notable—and arguably toughest—opponent to date. Ryder is content with the underdog role, entering at +165 but relatively carefree as he is confident of ruining Parker’s future plans.
“It’s an important fight. I’m sure he’d like to get my name on his resume and get to what he wants to do,” acknowledged Parker. “I’m standing in his way.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox