Ryder still at the races
Should John Ryder (22-2, 12 KOs) go on to become a world middleweight champion then he may look back on his fight against Sergey Khomitsky as the most important win of his career.
At the end of January, Ryder was tasked with not only saving a career that once looked nailed on for titles, but with defeating an opponent who had become accustomed to trashing the reputations of British rising stars.
“This is the make or break fight for John Ryder’s career at European and world level,” was how Ryder’s promoter Eddie Hearn described the opportunity six weeks from fight night.
Thankfully, for Ryder, and everyone around him, he delivered. Not with the kind of trench warfare that many of us expected but by using the brains that make him one of Britain’s most talented fighters at 160lbs.
With that win the 27-year-old Londoner now feels a sizeable weight off his shoulders. “I proved to myself, my family and everyone around me that I could do it,” Ryder told Boxing Monthly.
“I put weight on my own shoulders and if I couldn’t beat an ageing Khomitsky at the age of 41 then… I know I’ve got the ability… but if I wasn’t sensible enough and couldn’t beat him I would have needed to look in the mirror and consider my future.”
The stakes were high meaning everything during his preparation had to be perfect. Including how he made weight, something Ryder admits he had gotten wrong during the build-up to one of his biggest fights to date. A contest which resulted in a second unsuccessful challenge for the British title against Nick Blackwell, who defends his strap this Saturday night against Chris Eubank Jr.
“I was losing too much weight on the last week to be honest,” said Ryder. “The Blackwell fight I was missing runs and in the last few weeks it’s important to be down at the weight and I wasn’t. For six rounds, I was good but after that it fizzled out and didn’t have much more to give and got caught with a good shot. Not a shot I think I should’ve been stopped with but I didn’t have too much left anyway. So ultimately it could have went the same way it did so who knows.”
Ryder’s second tilt at the Lonsdale belt was ended by Blackwell in the seventh round. This after ‘The Gorilla’ had picked up five wins on the spin since his maiden shot at the illustrious title when he lost on points to the current WBO middleweight champion Billy Joe Saunders. A contest that went down to the wire, a fight where the old expression, ‘If it had gone 15 rounds…’ was applicable, thanks to the challenger’s slow start and fast finish.
Hindsight. Boxing’s cruel temptress who loves to remind you what you should have done.
“The Saunders fight I put down to experience,” said Ryder. A sentence decrypted as ‘I will never make the same mistake again’.
Boxing Monthly asked Ryder had he not suffered his only defeats to date against Saunders and Blackwell would we have seen a more gung-ho performance against Khomitsky. Would we have witnessed the entertaining battle that was widely predicted?
“Yeah, I think so,” he replied. “I’ve realised what mistakes I’ve made in the past now. Even if I had that fight with Khomitsky the year before, when I was meant to have it, you don’t know what the outcome would have been then because I was making mistakes with weight and not making it properly. A year on and I was better prepared and it made a big difference.”
A gaze into the future and route WBA seems to be where Ryder is heading. His win over Khomitsky gave him the sanctioning body’s International middleweight belt and a spot at number 15 in their rankings.
One look up that mountain and there are makeable fights with the likes of Gary ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan, Caleb Truax and Michel Soro. Looking over the cliff is ‘Super’ champion, the fearsome Gennady Golovkin. One spot below stands a rejuvenated Danny Jacobs, the WBA’s ‘Regular’ champion.
Ryder is a realist. At the moment, he is honest enough to admit that it is a climb that will take a long time to complete.
“I’ve got a lot of progressing to do and I think people have seen Jacobs is no mug since he’s come back. What he done to Peter Quillin was exceptional,” commented Ryder.
“No-one expected him to do that and he looked great. I suppose there’s still a lot for me to learn and some things in me that are untested and that I need to prove. These are the fights I ultimately want in 12-18 months. I’m 27, turn 28 in July. I don’t feel like I’m at my prime yet but I’ll be there soon. I wouldn’t want it much later than 30.”
Nick Blackwell, Chris Eubank Jr and Billy Joe Saunders are never far from his thoughts regarding future fights. It’s old ground with two of them but terrain that he’s more than happy to go over once again.
“The domestic scene is buzzing and it’s good because there’s a world title in the mix. Potentially, there could be a rematch with [Saunders] and Eubank or him and Blackwell so it’s an exciting time. No-one really knows what the next fight is.
“I’d love to avenge the Blackwell loss because I feel that wasn’t me at my best. The way Nick has improved no end it would be a good fight to make again because no-one hasn’t seen the best of me yet.”
And Ryder will be an interested spectator at this weekend’s highly anticipated British title grudge match between Blackwell and Eubank Jr at London’s Wembley Arena, live on Channel 5 in the UK.
It’s a fight that Ryder is looking forward to, as a boxing fan, and one that the winner of he will certainly be interested in facing. So let’s have a prediction, John.
“I’ve got to lean towards Eubank for ability but don’t write Nick Blackwell off,” he said.
“Write Nick Blackwell off at your peril. I underestimated him and look what happened to me. I thought I was the better boxer, a level above and Nick didn’t read the script, he proved different. Don’t underestimate him. He’s as fit as they come and he’s effective at what he does and will be in your face throwing back at you when you’re giving everything you’ve got. It’s going to be a good fight.”