By Kenneth Friedman: Callum Smith (26-0, 19 KOs) will be making a defense of his WBA super middleweight title against John Ryder (28-4, 16 KOs) this Saturday night, November 23 at the M & S Bank Arena in Liverpool, UK. This fight will be shown LIVE on DAZN and on Sky Sports.
This is a great opportunity for both fighters to increase their profile in worldwide boxing with a victory, since the match will be shown in the U.S as well. Smith, 29, is the favorite in the fight, of course, but Ryder has a chance.
Ryder is at his peak
This match is taking place at the right time in ‘The Gorilla’ Ryder’s 9-year career, as he’s won his last four fights and his confidence is sky-high.
For Smith, he needs the win to lock him for a big fight at Anfield in May or June of next year. Smith’s promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing would like to put him in with WBO champion Billy Joe Saunders or Saul Canelo Alvarez for that date. Trainer Joe Gallagher likes the idea of Callum battling former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev.
Ryder has momentum going into this clash
“I’d say it’s gone under the radar,” Hearn told Matchroom Boxing about Callum vs. Ryder fight. “In terms of the quality of the fight and the actual fight itself and the closeness of this fight, you’ve got a guy that is coming off of a wonderful spell of activity in John Ryder.
“He’s had four knockout victories, and some really good ones in there as well. He couldn’t be in a better place, physically and mentally,” said Hearn about challenger Ryder.
Since losing to Rocky Fielding by a close 12 round decision in 2017, Ryder has won four consecutive fights beating the following fighters: Andrey Sirotkin, Jamie Cox, Patrick Nielsen and Bilal Akkawy. Ryder is fighting extremely well right now, but he’s not fought a guy with Callum’s size and punching power.
At 5’9″, Ryder will need to find a way to get in range to land his shots against the 6’3″ Smith. The trouble with that is he could get clipped by one of Smith’s powerful left hooks, and taken out. George Groves found out for himself how hard Callum punches in losing to him by a 7th round knockout last year in the WBSS final.
Callum fighting at home in Liverpool
“He’s [Ryder] got the momentum, and he’s got nothing to lose,” said Hearn. “On the other hand, you’ve got the #1 super middleweight in the world right now, which is Callum Smith. He’s looked flawless against George Groves and Hassan N’Dam. He probably hasn’t had the activity that he wanted, and hasn’t had the activity of John Ryder, but he’s at home, he’s 6’5” and he’s a brilliant fighter.
“This is a really fascinating fighter, and remember, this is for the world title,” Hearn continued. “This is for the WBA world title and for the Ring belt. It’s not for a British title. This is for everything.”
Callum is the man to beat in the super middleweight division right now, and Ryder is viewed as food for him by a lot of boxing fans. Hearn hasn’t taken advantage of Smith’s victory in the World Boxing Super Series last year by setting up fights for him against the other top fighters at 168. So instead of Smith facing Billy Joe Saunders, David Benavidez or Caleb Plant, he’s defending against his mandatory.
Ryder is a good fighter, but he’s mostly known by fans domestically. In other words, Smith will gain little in beating Ryder on Saturday night. Yes, he’ll be able to hold onto his WBA and Ring Magazine titles, but he won’t impress the fans worldwide. For Smith to do that, he needs to face one of the other super middleweight champions or someone like Canelo Alvarez or Gennadiy Golovkin.
Callum’s trainer Gallagher talked about him possibly going up to 175 to get fights against guys like Kovalev. Smith may need to move up in weight to light heavyweight whether he likes it or not.
— DAZN USA (@DAZN_USA) November 16, 2019
Ryder believes he can beat Smith
“So for John Ryder right now, he’s thinking, ‘My God, if I beat Callum Smith, I’ve absolutely cracked it,” Hearn said. “He’s the mandatory challenger, he’s earned his shot, and he goes to Liverpool really believing he can win. Do not miss that fight.
“It’s going to be a great fight. Pressure is something you should thrive on, and you should love to fight at home. Big crowds in Liverpool at the M & S Bank Arena, and he should be enjoying that moment. It’s the first time he’s boxed in Liverpool as a world champion,” Hearn said about Callum.
This is a big deal for Smith to be defending his WBA title in front of his home fans in Liverpool this Saturday night. Smith won the WBA title last year, and he’s defended the belt once in beating Hassan N’Dam by a 3rd round knockout last June at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Smith fought on the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs. Andy Ruiz Jr. It was a choice spot for Smith to be fighting on the undercard of that fight, but he didn’t have a quality opponent for him to properly showcase his talent in the way he needed. The 35-year-old N’Dam looked completely over-matchd, and the fight wasn’t remotely competitive.
Callum Smith needs win to setup Anfield fight
“It doesn’t happen very often. Tony Bellew was there to fight BJ Flores. It’s a moment for him, and the lure of Anfield. We’ve made it very clear that’s the aim. I feel bad saying that. We’ve got John Ryder trying to beat Callum Smith. But for Callum Smith’s career, that’s the aim Beat John Ryder on November 23, and then move on to Anfield in May or June 2020,” said Hearn.
Beating Ryder is the easy part for Smith. He’s a big favorite, and he’s got the size and power advantage over the short 5’9″ fighter. The real problem that Smith has is he doesn’t have a lot of options for dance partners for Anfield. Saunders is hoping to get a fight against Canelo Alvarez, and he’s probably not going to want to risk that by facing Smith. Canelo has so many options right now. He’s not going to come to Anfield to face Smith.