Canelo Alvarez has earned right to face less-than-ideal opponent in his homecoming Saturday

John Ryder?

It’s difficult to get excited about the opponent in Canelo Alvarez’s pay-per-view fight Saturday night in Zapopan, Mexico, near Alvarez’s hometown of Guadalajara.

The undisputed 168-pound champion built his reputation in part on fighting one elite opponent after another en route to winning titles in four divisions and becoming the biggest star in the sport.

Ryder, roughly a 10-1 underdog, doesn’t stir the imagination at all. He’s just an opponent.

And that’s OK. If anyone deserves a one-time pass, it’s Alvarez in light of his track record and current circumstances.

First of all, the fact that Ryder is relatively obscure doesn’t mean he can’t fight. He can. The 35-year-old Londoner proved that with strong performances in a disputed loss to Callum Smith and a victory over Daniel Jacobs.

And he’s the mandatory challenger to Alvarez’s WBO title, which means in theory Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs) has to fight Ryder (32-5, 18 KOs) to preserve his belt.

“Every fight is dangerous,” Alvarez said. “I’m training 100 percent for Ryder and I will be ready.”

Second, Alvarez, 32, is coming off surgery shortly after his victory over rival Gennadiy Golovkin last September to repair damaged cartilage in his left wrist, which he said has been a painful problem in his last three fights.

The injury has healed – or he wouldn’t be fighting – but it makes sense to ease back into action against a fighter like Ryder rather than jump into a rematch with Dmitry Bivol or another stiff test.

Third, this fight is more about Alvarez’s homecoming than the matchup. He hasn’t fought in his native country since November 2011 and in his region since June of that year.

It reminds me of Hall of Famer Julio Cesar Chavez’s 1993 fight against Greg Haugen in front of 130,000-plus at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. That event was a celebration of a generational talent and the love of Chavez’s countryman, not a great matchup.

Alvarez deserves the right to pay homage to his fans – a crowd of 50,000 is expected to pack Estadio Akron – in a similar fashion. He’s earned that.

And, finally, a genuine challenge will come next. Alvarez has made it clear that he intends to face 175-pound titleholder Bivol a second time in September, assuming things go well on Saturday night.

Bivol stunned Alvarez and the boxing world a year ago by handing the superstar his first loss since Floyd Mayweather easily outpointed the then-23-year-old in 2013. All three judges had the Russian winning by the same score, 115-113, which didn’t reflect the winner’s dominance.

Many experts believe that Bivol would repeat his victory, which should dispel any notion that Alvarez’s decision to face Ryder means he’s avoiding tough fights.

Alvarez is the same man who faced the likes of Shane Mosley, Austin Trout, Mayweather, Erislandy Lara, Miguel Cotto, a prime Golovkin twice and Sergey Kovalev. He doesn’t seek out soft touches.

He’ll face Bivol in September if nothing unforeseen happens in the meantime. And then, win or lose, he’ll move on to other serious challenges.

That could mean a meeting with the opponent most fans want him to face, 168-pound contender David Benavidez. If not, you can bet he’ll target other potential foes who have higher profiles than Ryder.

For now, enjoy a decent matchup on Saturday and then look forward to bigger, better things.


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Story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie