Ablockbuster fight against the mighty Mexican Saul “Canelo” Alvarez at Anfield next year is the possible reward for Liverpool fighter Callum Smith if he retains his World Boxing Association super middleweight crown against London’s John Ryder on Saturday.
Smith is an overwhelming favourite to triumph in front of a home crowd at the M&S Bank Arena. But Ryder, buoyed by four knockout wins, believes he is being underestimated by the undefeated champion.
“He is the front-runner but I’m coming to cause the upset and, if I beat Smith, there will be no Anfield show,” said Ryder. “They might need to find a new headliner.”
Canelo, the four-weight world champion, is scheduled to box again in May and Smith aims to be at the head of the shortlist of his opponents.
Billy Joe Saunders and Gennadiy Golovkin are other options for Smith if he retains his belt, but Ryder is ready to derail those plans.
“There have been a lot of highs and lows in my career so even fighting for a world title would have been a dream not so long ago,” said Ryder. “But now it’s here. In reality, without taking your eye off the ball, you do look at the carrot that’s being dangled. There are super-fights with massive names in America and you can’t help but get excited.”
It is likely to be a close contest for the first four to five rounds, but as Ryder has to extend himself to get inside the 6ft 3in Smith, the pattern of the fight will probably play into the champion’s hands in the later stages, although he might need a points decision.
Elsewhere this weekend, Deontay Wilder, the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion, comes up against the only fighter to have come close to stopping him – Cuba’s Luis Ortiz, who he meets in Las Vegas in the early hours of Saturday morning. Wilder has a date with Tyson Fury scheduled for Feb 22, which, hopefully will settle the controversy after their draw in Los Angeles a year ago.
Wilder insists that the torrid seventh round he experienced against Ortiz early in 2018 will be eclipsed by “a dramatic finish” in his 10th defence of the WBC title. Muhammad Ali made a similar number of defences of a world heavyweight title, bettered only by Joe Louis (25), Larry Holmes (20) and Wladimir Klitschko (18).