For A Few Rounds More: John Ryder interview
Ahead of his super-middleweight clash with Patrick Nielsen on Saturday, John Ryder tells Shaun Brown that he is gunning for victory and that his prime is still to come...
The words "must-win" have been synonymous with John Ryder's career for the last two years.
The British super middleweight, once tipped for the very top when he was at middleweight, has had a spate of fights that have had him drinking in the last chance saloon. His career staring down the barrel of a gun and so on and so on.
Ryder, now 29, steps inside the metaphorical establishment once again on Saturday night at Wembley Arena as part of the George Groves vs Jamie Cox undercard. Patrick Nielsen is on the other side of the swinging doors hoping to be the faster draw and the one who will run Ryder out of town.
However, there is an argument that Ryder - Western movie cliches aside - could well have been looking at a career that was in better condition had he got the nod over Jack Arnfield and Rocky Fielding in tightly contested affairs in September 2016 and in April earlier this year.
Boxing Monthly spoke to Ryder ahead of his fight against Nielsen and asked him if it made him feel any better that many believed he beat Arnfield and Fielding.
"It does and it doesn't," he began. "People still look at it like you've been beat by them, even if 50 per cent think you have and 50 per cent think you haven't. Promoters and managers will still put you on the pile and tell you to retire and give it up because you're not winning.
"I'm at a point now where I'm not going to get many more opportunities, so I've got to make the most of every opportunity. This is a career defining fight for me. You lose this you've got nowhere to go really. This is the hardest fight for me to date, for that reason, and I've trained that way."
Ryder says he has fought better opponents than Nielsen but doesn't view it as a step back from someone like British and Commonwealth super middleweight champion Rocky Fielding. And the Liverpudlian is someone who Ryder would like a crack at once again.
"Beating Nielsen on the 14th will open massive doors for me again and it means I can look at Fielding, a great fight I'd be interested in. I'd obviously like to put the Fielding fight right."
It's been just over four years since Ryder pushed Billy Joe Saunders all the way in a British and Commonwealth middleweight title fight. Outpointed on the night but not outdone in the performance stakes, the future looked rosy for the fighter nicknamed 'The Gorilla'.
It wasn't until two years later that Ryder would once again find himself in a meaningful fight - one that the motivation was easy for - against Nick Blackwell. Ryder's second shot at the British 160lbs strap was going well until a bloodied Blackwell turned the tide, landing heavy right hands and continuing with an onslaught which forced referee Howard Foster to wave it off with just under 25 seconds to go in the seventh round.
As Blackwell waded in, sensing the stoppage, Sky commentator Adam Smith would describe it as Ryder's biggest career crisis to date.
Over two years from that night and Ryder is still standing. His career may be teetering on the brink of collapse - on the high profile shows at least - but the value in fighting Ryder still remains. And despite the four losses on his record, a win on Saturday will revitalise his ambitions once again with some more big fights likely to be just around the corner.
"People don't buy into records anymore," he commented. "It's more about the fight and as long as good fights are being made then they'll still buy into you. I feel like I've still got a lot to give to the sport. I don't feel like I'm in my prime yet.
"My training, my times in my runs are better than ever. I feel like I'm getting there. It's coming together. It's one of those things with boxing. You'll have moments when you love it and moments when you'll hate it. I'm loving it and enjoying everything about it at the minute."
And the lessons of looking beyond the next fight have also been learned by Ryder.
"I've looked at what could be next in the past. So, for me, now it's all about concentrating on Patrick Nielsen. Get the win.
"I know it'll be at Wembley but it's on his promoter's show [Sauerland] and on their terms. I will be at home, but be the away fighter. Put on a good performance, more importantly get the win and look good doing it. Getting the win is the most important thing though. Getting another lifeline and going on to fight again."
Equally important to Ryder's career longevity has been the decision to move up to super middleweight. No longer is Ryder killing himself to make 160lbs, running out of ideas during fights because of the mental toll it took on him to get to the middleweight limit.
"I'm taking a lot more energy into the ring," said Ryder. "I can think straighter. It's not that I didn't train hard [at middleweight] it was that I mentally battered myself to get to the weight. So tired and drained from making the weight, and the thought of fighting took it out of me. I feel a lot better at the weight and a lot more energised."