May 06, 2023; Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico; Saul “Canelo” Alvarez celebrates his win over John Ryder after their Undisputed Super Middleweight Championship fight at the Estadio Akron in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico. Mandatory Credit: Melina Pizano/Matchroom.
Suddenly, the white noise disappeared. The roaring sound of a hometown crowd of 55,000 from Akron Stadium, in Guadalajara, Mexico, could not permeate the inner sanctum of undisputed super middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night.
What mattered was in front of him, on the sides of him, sitting on the sofa before him. Alvarez kneeled in front of his grandmother like an altar boy about to take communion, he hugged his wife and kissed the forehead of his daughter like a man about to get in his car and take a morning drive to work.
And then, Alvarez did what he was supposed to do to challenger southpaw Brit John Ryder, winning with a thorough 12-round unanimous decision by scores of 120-107 and 118-109 (2).
It had been 12 years, or 4,180 days, since he last fought in his home country of Mexico. When the 32-year-old Mexican superstar was introduced, the greeting was so deafening, hardly anyone could hear themselves talk.
Alvarez (59-2-2, 39 knockouts) didn’t disappoint. He played up his homecoming with a grand entrance wearing a king’s crown and a velvet decorative dark green robe. England’s King Charles III could not have outdone him.
“This is an historic moment for me,” Alvarez said afterward. “I’m blessed to be here with my people who have supported me from the beginning. I’m glad to be here. I’m very thankful for my people.”
In the buildup for the fight, Alvarez kept saying Ryder (32-6, 18 KOs) was more difficult than anyone was giving him credit for. The 34-year-old had only been stopped once, and that came eight years ago as a middleweight.
🗣️ “This was historic! I’m happy with the fight… John is a very strong fighter. We want Bivol, same rules and terms!” – @Canelo #CaneloRyder | @DAZNBoxing pic.twitter.com/6YuNmgmdRK
— Matchroom Boxing (@MatchroomBoxing) May 7, 2023
“They come more difficult than usual, and I know they’re coming for everything,” Alvarez said. “I’ve been in this position a long time and I respect my opponents.”
Ryder attacked first with a combination that bounced off Alvarez, who countered with a right to the body. With 1:25 left in the first, Ryder had Alvarez pushed up against the ropes, though by the end of the round, it was Alvarez who was coming and pawing at Ryder.
In the second, Alvarez started dropping his right to Ryder’s body. Alvarez also answered a question if he had a healthy left hand, which he had surgery on immediately after his victory over rival Gennadiy Golovkin last September. It appeared Alvarez had confidence in his left through his jab. At the end of the round, Alvarez tagged Ryder with a left to the body.
“(The left hand) feels very good,” Canelo said. “I’m very good, but no, not in the beginning, I needed a couple of rounds (to feel confident throwing the left) to start punching and I feel I was good with the hand. Now I know.”
Within the first 20 seconds of the third, Alvarez bashed Ryder with a right uppercut that caused Ryder’s nose to open like a red faucet. Canelo was forcing Ryder backwards, his face a maroon mask. Alvarez did not seem to have any fear of Ryder. He plodded casually forward, inching forward, landing heavy rights.
Midway through the fourth, Alvarez popped Ryder with a straight right to the chest. Ryder, to his credit, stayed within the pocket. Alvarez’s gloves glistened, painted by Ryder’s blood.
Alvarez used smart foot placement, keeping his lead left foot outside of southpaw Ryder’s lead right foot. With 1:34 left in the fifth, Alvarez downed Ryder with a straight right, set up with a left jab that was fired a little high.
Ryder was on shaky legs the remainder of the round, and to his credit, even tried fighting back. He returned to his corner with blotches of crimson covering his body.
“I thought I had him (in the fifth). He put his head in front and I almost took care (of him), but I’m happy with the fight,” Alvarez said. “He’s a strong fighter and I knew that. I wasn’t surprised about it. This has been very special for me. It felt different and I’m glad to be here.”
A looping right sent Ryder tumbling backwards with 1:40 left in the sixth. He patiently took Ryder’s shots, and even took a left uppercut. They seemed like pebbles thrown at a tank.
In the last 30 seconds of the sixth, Alvarez pecked away with jabs and rights.
Halfway through the fight, it seemed a matter of time before Alvarez would wrap it up. Ryder deserved credit for courageously hanging in.
In the seventh, Alvarez methodically came forward. He backed Ryder up, popping his jab off of Ryder’s face. Through seven, the question was how much more could Ryder take? And, how much punishment would Ryder’s corner allow him to take?
It was more of the same in the eighth. Alvarez pounded Ryder with a steady diet of left hooks to the body, followed by straight rights. He didn’t even try hiding it. In the last minute of the eighth, Canelo pushed Ryder back with winding, looping rights. Ryder, again, took the beating. In the last seconds of the eighth, the fighter’s legs tangled and Ryder went down, ruled a trip by referee Mike Griffin, whose attire made him look more like a maitre d’ than a fight referee.
In the last minute of the ninth, Griffin began taking a deep look at Ryder, after he was rocked by a Canelo right that caught Ryder on the top of his head.
In the 10th, Ryder did tag Alvarez more. In the last 10 seconds of the 10th, Alvarez popped Ryder with a right to the head, although it was one of Ryder’s better rounds.
By the 11th, Alvarez appeared to slow, more content to fly on cruise control and ride out his considerable lead to the end.
Knowing he needed a knockout to win, Ryder didn’t show the urgency to go after it. Alvarez took some shots to the body, and a few jabs to the head. Canelo took more than he dished out in the final three minutes. Alvarez did not get the knockout that he wanted—but he did convincingly win.
There’s been questions whether or not Alvarez is still the face of boxing.
He answered that.
“I’m here, I have the four belts,” he said. “Everyone knows (what’s next). We want (Dmitry) Bivol next. If the fight doesn’t happen, we’ll see. I’m willing to fight everybody. I want the fight at 175 pounds. Same rules. Same terms. I just want things that way.”
“He couldn’t get me out of there,” Ryder said. “His plan was to stop me. He didn’t.”
In the co-feature, WBC flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez (20-2, 15 KOs) got more than what he may have expected in Panamanian challenger Ronal “Gallito” Batista (15-3, 9KO), though he successfully defended the title for the sixth time with a stoppage at 1:00 of the 11th round.
In the fourth, referee Celestino Ruiz took a point away from Batista for low blows. Martinez knocked down Batista in the seventh, but it arrived with some controversy.
Ruiz originally ruled the knockdown a slip. Although between the seventh and eighth rounds, WBC President Mauricio Sulaiman overruled the slip and changed it into a knockdown—which was the right call.
On the undercard, junior welterweight Gabriel Gollaz Valenzuela (27-3-1, 16 KOs) won a 10-round split-decision over Steve Spark (16-3, 14 KOs), former WBC light heavyweight titlist Oleksandr “The Nail” Gvozdyk (19-1, 15 KOs) stopped Ricards Bolotniks (19-7-1, 8 KOs) at 1:53 of the sixth round and 18-year-old featherweight Nathan Rodriguez (11-0, 7 KOs) won by 10-round majority decision over Alexander “Popeye” Mejia (19-6, 8 KOs).
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.