'I'm the stronger man': John Ryder interview

Ezio Prapotnich
12/04/2019 8:30am

Photo: Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Ahead of his high-profile May showdown with David Lemieux in Las Vegas, super middleweight John Ryder speaks to Ezio Prapotnich...

After defeating little known Andrey Sirotkin in what was labelled as a final eliminator for the WBA 'super' title, top super middleweight contender John Ryder (27-4, 15 KOs) didn’t get any closer to a shot at either Callum Smith’s belt or the 'regular' version held by superstar Canelo Alvarez.

Nevertheless, his next bout against former IBF champion David Lemieux (40-4, 34 KOs) for the enigmatic interim title is arguably the biggest of his career and on the greatest possible stage, featuring on the Canelo vs Jacobs middleweight unification blockbuster card on 4 May at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

There is plenty at stake and surely more than enough to motivate the man from Islington to produce his best performance in a fight in which he feels he has the upper hand.

BM: Although winning a final eliminator for the WBA 'super' title, you are instead fighting for the interim version while Callum Smith will make his American debut against a yet to be announced opponent. How was this situation presented and justified to you? Also, how do you feel about it?

JR: It was made clear to me before I fought Sirotkin that the Smith fight might not happen until the end of 2019. Aside for needing a break after the WBSS, the WBA granted him a voluntary defence and I also understand he might be after a unification. I knew it was going to be a long route. I wanted to keep active and fight in summer rather than sitting around. Thankfully, I am not getting just a keep busy bout that would not motivate me but a serious challenge that really has my juices flowing. I am hungry, willing to train hard and ready to sink my teeth in it.

BM: How much value do you give to the interim title?
JR: The belt is not prestigious in itself but it’s a stepping stone to something bigger. Lemieux is a former world champion with great names on his record. The importance of the fight is not in the title but in the platform it offers. This is the next level.

BM: Does Lemieux at 168 presents the same set of problems he would at 160?
JR: He is a fearsome puncher and will carry the power with him. The extra pounds will probably enable him to add strength. I am preparing for the best Lemieux ever seen.

BM: He rates you as a credible opponent but announced he will make a statement out of you. How do you reply to that?
JR: I look forward to it. It’s his first fight at 168 and it’s a different ballgame. The punches are going to feel a lot harder for him. I had couple of years to grow into the weight and adjusted well. I am going to be the bigger and stronger man on the night.

BM: Are you taking anything out of his previous defeats?
JR: The blueprint to beat him is in the Saunders and Golovkin fights. Billy Joe is an incredible boxer while Gennady is an incredible puncher and they both relied on their main assets to beat him. I think I can outbox him but I don’t’ exclude the possibility of a late stoppage. He has been stopped before, it’s not impossible.

BM: This is your first fight abroad and on the biggest possible stage. Are you feeling any nerves at all?
JR: A boxing ring is a boxing ring anywhere in the world. It’s a great occasion on a great card. I always wanted to box in Vegas, I felt it was my destiny. Finally I got my chance to prove I have a right to be there.

BM: So, even though you are not fighting for a world title, do you feel your hard work is finally paying off?
JR: Definitely. This is a great career move and can be the start of big things in the USA.

BM: If you win, you are left at the same WBA fork as last fight: Callum or Canelo. What happens next?
JR: Who knows? Either fight would be massive. I am focused on the task at hand. Once that is out of the way, we will sit down and plan the next move.

BM: In regard to the domestic scene, what do you make of Eubank’s win over DeGale? Also, how do you see Billy Joe Saunders fairing at super Middleweight? Fancy a scrap with either one?
JR: DeGale was past his best, but Eubank Jr showed a good variety of hard and fast punches. The power, chin and engine are still there but so are the vulnerabilities in his footwork. Billy’s main asset is his great boxing IQ, which will not be affected by the weight. Actually, an extra couple of pounds will serve him well and I look forward to see him perform. But I stay in my lane and will keep on the WBA route.