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Exclusive George Groves interview: Ryder will ‘shake up the world’ against Canelo; Ryder can beat Canelo with ‘volume of punches’

George Groves
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In an exclusive interview with Legalsportsbooks.com, former WBA super-middleweight champion George Groves divulges his predictions on the super-middleweight clash between Canelo Alvarez & John Ryder.

Groves believes the Brit has a ‘big chance’ on Saturday night, and reveals what Ryder will need to do to beat Canelo. The former Super-Middle-Weight champion also believes John Ryder is the best British opponent to face the Mexican pound-for-pound King.

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Highlights from the interview:

Full transcript

Q: With $200m in the bank and 62 pro fights to his name, is there a chance Canelo has lost the hunger that made him so rock solid up until now?

George Groves: “They’re all good points and it does make you wonder when, or if maybe, it’s going to catch up with Canelo. All the big fights and the big occasions, the money, the wealth and the fame that he’s accumulated… is the hunger and the desire going to still be there to the same extent? We’ll find out. But every now and then there is that exception to the rule who just keeps on going. Floyd Mayweather before Canelo for example.

This match with John Ryder will be a fascinating one at the weekend. Ryder is a brilliant British ambassador for boxing. He’s been a professional for a long time now. We actually boxed each other in the North-West division of the London ABAs back in 2007 or 2008. After that we both turned pro and I followed his career from the get-go. He’s been a little bit unlucky at times. Some of his fights could have gone his way but didn’t.

He was edged out by Billie Joe Saunders. He was beaten on the cards but many people thought he should’ve won against Callum Smith in his first world title shot. He had an impressive win against Danny Jacobs who had to come over to the UK to fight him in London. He’s a big name with lots of experience but John boxed well, stuck to his game plan and got the win that night. Then when it’s all up for grabs and he’s in there with Zach Parker on a Frank Warren card – he’s not signed to Frank Warren – and he knows if he wins this fight, because of the funny way that the WBO are with an interim championship, he either gets a shot at Canelo or he basically inherits a world title.

It was a bit of a bizarre one because the fight had barely got going before Parker pulled out with a hand injury at the end of the fourth round. You could see that Ryder was shrugging his shoulders and wanted more action because he’d probably trained a long time for that fight. But he’s had his eyes set on Alvarez for a long time now. He’s signed to Matchroom and I’m sure Eddie Hearn told him Canelo’s next but until it’s signed, sealed, delivered and you’ve booked your flights for Cinco De Mayo you just don’t know for sure. 

Alvarez is a brilliant fighter, a fighter through and through. He’s got the attitude of an old school fighter and he wants to knock people out basically. Sure he’s coming off that loss to Bivol where he just bit off a bit more than he could chew up at light heavyweight against a really good champion. We probably hadn’t seen the very best of him (Bivol) at that point and Alvarez probably thought ‘I’ve beaten Kovalev at light heavyweight and I can do the same to Bivol because I’ve cleaned up at middleweight.’ But Bivol was too big, too fast and too disciplined and beat him pretty comfortably in the end.

But it made sense I thought for him to not to go straight back in for the rematch with Bivol and take the third fight with Golovkin. I’m a huge GGG fan but he’s 40 years of age and his best years are behind him, up at super middleweight as well when he’s been a career middleweight. Still close on the cards and massive mutual respect but Alvarez won. He’s had a wrist operation so he’s coming off the back of an operation and sometimes that can be a significant factor.

But he boxed Golovkin September last year and we’re in May now so about eight months and I’m sure he had the surgery straight away so he must have had plenty of rehab. There’s been periods of Canelo’s career where it feels like he’s been rushing fights, trying to get three fights in per year but he’s back to twice a year now which makes sense for him. It’s his first time back in Mexico for 12 years so I think we will get a very good version of Alvarez for this fight which is not great news for John Ryder but if you want all the marbles and you want memories in this sport.

John Ryder’s been dealt a gift and I’m sure all the people around him will say the same; he’s got the chance to take on a pound-for-pound king. He’s the biggest draw and the biggest name in the game. So Ryder’s got a chance to go over there to the Lion’s Den and shake up the world.”

Q: Canelo is a huge favourite with the bookmakers but Ryder loves being the underdog. It would be a huge shock if Ryder could get the win but stranger things have happened?

GG: “Yeah stranger things have happened. John Ryder is not someone to overlook or underestimate and I think Canelo’s team will know that. He’s a good athlete, he’s very strong and he converts that strength into very decent punch power and he’s neat and tidy.

His footwork is good and he can close the distance down very quickly. With the power in his legs he can spring into range very rapidly and let his hands go. If Ryder is to win this fight he’s going to need a high output and a big volume of punches. He’s going to have to try and dominate the rounds. We know Canelo’s got a fantastic chin. He’s never been stopped and never really been hurt to my knowledge. I’ve seen him get off the floor once to win but that was a long, long time ago.

You’re then thinking if he can’t stop Alvarez, getting a points decision in Mexico is going to be tough and he won’t want to leave it too close. I think the game plan from John Ryder needs to be; come out, start fast, be aggressive and try to box off that front foot and back Alvarez up. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not an easy thing to do of course. In many ways both their styles match and don’t necessarily complement each other.

Alvarez also likes to spring in and he punches with spite and intent and will definitely whack hard. Ryder is a little bit taller than Alvarez and he’s used to punching up because most super middleweights are taller than him. Zach Parker in the last fight was much taller with a longer reach as well. So pulling away and creeping in off the back leg won’t necessarily have the same effect.

So he needs to close that distance like he did with Callum Smith and sit in the pocket and trade and try and do some damage downstairs, whack the arms, whack the body and then finish the exchanges and make sure he’s the last man to throw a punch at the end of each combination to catch the eyes of the judges. 

Q: There is speculation that this could be the perfect time for Ryder to face Canelo coming off the wrist surgery. Is there the potential for a huge upset in Mexico?

GG: “There will be confidence in the Ryder camp and I’m sure he’s got the right mindset. He knows this is his big chance and he’ll be given it his absolute all. He’s wired that way. Hopefully what he’s got is enough to push Alvarez but we’ve got to be honest.

On paper Alvarez is a level above. He’s performed better, boxed at a higher level and been in there with bigger names and champions. But it’s boxing and it’s one vs one, every man on their day and John Ryder will leave nothing to chance. I think it’s going to be a great fight. I predict it to be a better fight than any of Alvarez’s previous fights against British opponents.

That includes Billie Joe Saunders and  Callum Smith, which was pretty one-sided but I think John’s had a better run up and better camp than Smith would’ve had. Before that you’re talking about Ryan Rhodes and Matthew Hatton. Amir Khan was giving away way too much weight.”

Q: John Ryder has been sparring and living with Conor Benn in camp in LA. Did that surprise you?

GG: “They’re friends I assume. I don’t know what Conor’s latest situation is. Whether he’s got a fight pending, whether he’s going through an appeals process and trying to get a licence maybe out in California now but everyone’s there for John Ryder. They’re a close team run by Tony Sims. John Ryder must be the longest standing man in that gym.

He’s been there a long time and seen waves of fighters come through, so it will be a proud moment for everyone who’s part of that team. Just to be there will be epic but imagine if John Ryder goes out and causes a mega upset. He’ll be nervous but you don’t want it to consume you. Everyone’s a bit different. My nerves were laced with excitement. I’d be really, really excited and trying to contain that excitement because potentially it’s just adrenaline wasted.

You want to save that for the fight. But it will be tough for him because it’s a massive, massive fight. Everyone who probably knows John Ryder is probably messaging him, asking how he’s feeling and he might be that type of fighter who likes to talk about it or he might be someone who likes to shy away from it. I’m pretty sure he’ll be nervous but at the same time he’s in a win-win situation. He’s a massive underdog and no one is really expecting him to win but he could go out there and shock a lot of people.

I don’t think it’s in his makeup to just go and give a good account of himself. I don’t think he’d be satisfied with that, especially where he is in terms of his career. He’s done his b-side fights and he’s come through them and won. This is the ultimate b-side fight where he is the underdog but if he wins this his life will change exponentially forever.”

Q: Ryder said his head wasn’t focused on the task in hand during his ring walk at the O2 before he fought Zach Parker. Do you think walking out in front of the 50,000 Lion’s Den crowd in Guadalajara will help focus his mind?

GG: “Yeah I hope so. He’s certainly got an experienced team around him and as long as they can keep nudging him in the right direction. John himself is vastly experienced. He’s been a pro boxer and has been training like a pro athlete for a long, long time now so he should go out and do his version of himself. I wouldn’t be expecting him to reinvent himself at this stage.

If he has found a way of helping himself really focus on the task then so be it but I don’t think its rocket science for John Ryder at this point. You’re the away fighter in a stadium fight, go out there and do your thing. I think he has boxed in LA before, he boxed out of the States on a DAZN card but he would’ve been the favourite in that fight whereas usually when he’s been the away fighter it’s still been in London. This time he’s on the other side of the planet so that will be something to factor in. But I hope he’s managed to hit the ground running, continued his camp well and shocks the world on Saturday night.”

George Groves

George Groves is a British former professional boxer with a career spanning from 2008 to 2018. George held the WBA (Super) super-middleweight title from 2017 to 2018. Groves has also held the belts at British, Commonwealth & European level from 2014 to 2018. Now retired, St. George Groves is a seasoned boxing commentator, who is the creator of a successful boxing podcast called 'The George Groves Boxing Club'.