John ‘The Gorilla’ Ryder picked up the biggest win of his career on Saturday night by defeating former two-weight world champion Danny Jacobs by split decision.
The WBA super-middleweight title eliminator was a fight of two halves with Jacobs controlling the first six before Ryder switched on and made matters more competitive from the seventh onwards.
Ryder had been on the wrong end of the scorecards on three occasions in the past to Jack Arnfield, Rocky Fielding and Callum Smith. The Londoner felt aggrieved on each occasion and in the latter, the biggest of them all, the WBA super-middleweight title fight, he certainly had every right to feel let down by the judging. Tonight, however, at the Alexandra Palace he got the rub of the green.
A venue synonymous with darts there was an atmosphere similar to an evening at the arrows when heavyweight prospect Johnny Fisher strolled in for a six-round fight as the chief main support. Such is his fanbase his slot on the card was always going to be significant. Sadly, when Fisher left and the main event started the din lessened.
In the opening round Jacobs was quicker to the punch, used his feet to his advantage and had superior hand speed. A trio of abilities that paid dividends for the next five sessions. Ryder would try to smother, lean in and unsettle the former middleweight and super-middleweight champion but the New Yorker has seen every tactic in the book. He could predict what the Brit would do and always kept him at bay as Jacobs regularly brought out an overhand right which he hoped would do more damage than it did.
A real argument could be made that Jacobs swept the first six rounds but in the seventh ‘The Gorilla’ brought the fight to ‘The Miracle Man’. Ryder dipped to throw a short-left hand which brought the crowd to life. It was a shot in the arm for the underdog who immediately gained confidence and got to work with hustle and bustle that Jacobs was happy to accommodate. If those three minutes gave Ryder hope, then the following 180 seconds provided the rockiest patch of the fight for Jacobs.
The overhand money punch was beginning to miss. The final 90 seconds saw Ryder throw a double jab, a few of his tried and trusted uppercuts in close followed by more work on the inside before landing a one-two. Jacobs was on the ropes, the energy and positivity from just minutes before had been sapped out of him quicker than you can say nine-darter at the Ally Pally. This was Ryder’s moment to turn the screw.
Jacobs began to hold more in the ninth. Ryder would have none of it and threw a lightning combination to the mid-section. Nothing that would crack ribs but would certainly get the attention of the judges. The tide was turning. The crowd turned up the volume. Everyone watching knew the momentum had completely shifted. However, in the tenth Jacobs found new life. His slick footwork had left him, but the boxing brain was sharp as he got to work on the jab. A contest of boxing’s leading fundamental punch got going and Ryder had to match him. It was a crucial round on most scorecards.
“Let your hands go,” was the cry from Ryder’s corner in the eleventh. The final six minutes were a mixed bag for both. Ryder would continue to attack his opponent’s 35-year-old body. Jacobs overhand right came back into play. And then there was the continued hustle and bustle of Ryder. Jacobs got the edge in the last round but as the scorecards were read out it was Ryder who got the nod (115-113,113-1135, 115-113).
Five years ago, Ryder’s career was in no man’s land then came an opportunity to fight on a World Boing Super Series undercard at Wembley Arena. In the main event George Groves made his way to a semi-final against Chris Eubank Jr but Ryder’s career resurrected itself thanks to his demolition of Patrick Nielsen. Since then, he hasn’t looked back. A further five wins in six fights came his way. The sole loss to Callum Smith rose his stock significantly. John Ryder had become a genuine world title contender at 168lbs.
“It was like a coming out party after 12 years in the game,” he told DAZN’s Chris Lloyd afterwards.
“He’s beat a major, major superstar tonight,” Ryder’s trainer Tony Sims said. “I’m hoping Eddie [Hearn] can lure Canelo to Wembley Stadium now.”
The undisputed super-middleweight champion can pick who he wants to fight between 168lbs and 175lbs. However, this eliminator was not specifically for Canelo’s WBA title. As ever the Association’s championship picture is a clumsy one featuring two belts. The pound-for-pound superstar holds their ‘Super’ version while unbeaten David Morrell has the ‘Regular’ title.
Regardless of where Ryder lands next what matters is he has himself well and truly back in the mix at super-middleweight. Tonight, at the Alexandra Palace, John Ryder hit the bullseye.