Home favourite Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez beat Britain’s John Ryder in front of 50,000 raucous and impassioned Mexican fans on a historic night in Guadalajara.
The Mexican champion defended his undisputed super-middleweight crown on points despite a spirited display by Ryder at Estadio Akron.
Alvarez, 32, dominated the fight and dropped Ryder in round five, but the Londoner fought back well.
Two judges scored the bout 118-109 and the other 120-107 to Alvarez.
The four-weight world champion won his 59th fight since turning professional, with two losses and two draws.
Ryder loses his sixth fight in 38 bouts and has now twice failed at world title level, after being defeated by Briton Callum Smith for the WBA ‘Super’ title in 2019.
“The power of Canelo, the body work – fantastic,” promoter Eddie Hearn told BBC Radio 5 Live. “John showed he was a world-class fighter but Canelo is one of the best ever. John deserves massive respect tonight.”
Alvarez dominates gutsy Ryder
In a fight billed as the ‘King is coming home’, Alvarez extended his reign as the ruler of super-middleweight division.
After eight months out of the ring following surgery on his left hand, there were no signs of any effects of Alvarez’s injury as he landed two thudding left hooks to Ryder’s body in the opening round.
Ryder’s task got all the more harder after Alvarez busted the challenger’s nose two rounds later, leaving him with a bloodied face which would hinder him for the remainder of the contest.
Ryder is a bullish boxer who vowed to take the fight to Alvarez, but he was forced on the back foot with Alvarez dictating the pace and stalking Ryder around the ring early on.
The crowd erupted in round five as Alvarez floored Ryder with a sensational left-right combination. Ryder staggered backwards before falling to the canvas. He got up at the count of eight but, with his legs still wobbled, did well to survive the round.
Ryder earned a lucrative, life-changing shot at Alvarez by becoming WBO mandatory and winning the interim title. But he was at times fighting on instinct. Whatever Ryder threw, Alvarez would hardly flinch.
Ryder was dropped in the eighth but it was declared a slip, before a sensational round nine.
Another Alvarez combination had the referee poised to step in, but a gutsy Ryder stood and traded with Alvarez, showing incredible heart and bravery.
“John came in to the fight when it looked like the fight was over,” Hearn said. “He stayed in the fight. The more John threw the more success he was having. What a gutsy performance.”
Ryder, needing a stoppage, began to land with more ease in the championship rounds. The result became inevitable, but the way in which Ryder recovered from those early and middle rounds, trading and landing on Alvarez, won the respect of the crowd.
Emotive, electric and epic
It was an event that will go down in Mexican boxing history, and one which could rival any boxing atmosphere around the world.
Police helicopters circled a stadium lit up by smartphone torches. Quite appropriately, there was a Mexican wave.
Ryder has taken a backseat throughout the ‘Alvarez show’ during fight week. He insisted the occasion would not overwhelm him, but very little could prepare him for the hostile reception and jeers he received during his ring walk.
Then came the emotive, electric and epic Alvarez entrance. A montage of his life appeared on the big screen, fireworks shot up into the Guadalajara night sky and a mariachi band of about 50 members played the champion into the ring.
All the while, Ryder continued to shadow box and wait patiently.
Alvarez, fighting in his home country for the first time since 2011, is arguably the biggest pay-per-view star in boxing, but in Mexico he is a true icon whose level of fame in Mexico is unmatched.
What’s next for Alvarez?
After a defeat by Dmitry Bivol at light-heavyweight and by a below-par performance in a win over Gennady Golovkin in 2022, there were some questions over whether Alvarez’s best days were behind him.
There was huge expectation on Alvarez to deliver against Ryder. He may not have got the knockout, but he won convincingly against a game opponent on a night when expectation was sky high.
Boxing fans are calling for a mouth-watering clash against former world champion David Benavidez. The undefeated American has 23 knockout wins in 27 fights.
Alvarez says he wants to avenge his defeat against Bivol and become a two-time light-heavyweight champion.
There are not many contests where Alvarez would go in as the underdog, but the classy Bivol was a clear winner in the first fight.
Retirement for Ryder?
Ryder was on the cusp of legendary status, but became the eighth Briton beaten by Alvarez.
A fighter who has shown incredible grit and determination in a career full of ups and down, Ryder had an opportunity to shock the world and be the first male English boxer to become undisputed champion in the four-belt era.
Victory over Alvarez would have also been arguably the greatest by a British boxer overseas, but it was always going to a tall order.
He had suggested it may not be time to hang up the gloves and spend more time with his family, and the manner of his defeat means big fights may still be there for Ryder.
Whether he hangs up the gloves or not, Ryder leaves Guadalajara knowing he played his part in a memorable and historic night.