By: Sean Crose
Callum Smith may have been regarded as the big dog in the super middleweight division, perhaps even bigger than fellow titlist Canelo Alvarez. Yet if Saturday’s performance against the largely unknown John Ryder is any indication, the assertions may have been a bit short sighted. While it’s true every fighter is entitled to a bad night every so often, Ryder gave the champion all he could handle. Some are even suggesting that it was Ryder, not Smith, who should have been awarded the victory by the judges after the bell at the final round. Still, it was Smith who got the decision win in front of his hometown of Liverpool, England, improving his record to 27-0.
Photo Credit : Matchroom Boxing Twitter Account
It was a night Smith won’t soon forget, however. Ryder asserted himself right off the bat in round one by attacking Smith’s body while the much taller defending champion tried to find his range. Ryder continued to impress in the second, crouching in a style reminiscent of Dempsey and Frazier, while Smith managed to land some shots. Smith became more assertive in the third, as his fists started to find their mark. By the fourth round, however, it was Ryder’s body shots that were telling the tale. Smith began well enough in the fifth, but straight, accurate punching from Ryder undid much of Smith’s good work. Although slow to pull the trigger, the champion was able to punch effectively in a sixth round punctuated by a hard right.
The aggressive Ryder made the seventh a grinding affair, though Smith’s hard, steady work may have told the tale. Ryder did well in the eighth, though Smith may have done a bit better. By the ninth, Smith was no longer slow to pull the trigger. He was firing regularly, especially with his jab, and that was ultimately telling the tale. The tenth was close, but Ryder was appearing to slow down a bit in his still relentless forward movement. Ryder effectively bulled his way through a strong eleventh round. The twelfth saw Ryder slugging his way to edge the round. The judges, of course (this is boxing, after all) gave the victory to Smith by a comfortable margin, bringing Ryder’s overall record to 28-5. BoxingInsider had it a draw.
If there was one thing fans and analysts could take away from the fight, it’s that Ryder is a serious force to be reckoned with at supermiddleweight. Short, stocky, muscular, and gruellingly aggressive, the London native had won four in a row by stoppage before Saturday night’s throwdown with Smith for Smith’s WBA title. What’s more, there were several times late in the fight where it looked like he might have had the rising star from Liverpool on the verge of being seriously hurt. Team Smith, on the other hand, will probably see a need for growth after Saturday’s performance. For too much of the fight, the defending champion had left himself too easy a target. He had also allowed Ryder to push him around for a considerable portion of the bout.