Callum Smith was a massive favorite coming into today’s fight with John Ryder, but the fight sure didn’t play out as a mismatch.
Smith (27-0, 19 KO) went the distance and retained his WBA super middleweight title over his mandatory challenger on questionable scores of 116-112, 116-112, and 117-111. Bad Left Hook had the fight 116-112 for Ryder (28-5, 16 KO), whose four-fight win streak was snapped with the controversial defeat.
Ryder, the much smaller man, was able to bully Smith around a fair bit, and largely controlled the center of the ring, to the surprise of pretty much everyone. He fought effectively on the inside, consistently pushing Smith to the ropes and doing effective work.
Smith had his moments, but he unquestionably looked a bit flat in this fight, and gave a lot of ground to someone he was supposed to handle without too much difficulty. There never seemed to be any sense of urgency from Smith, even when Ryder was pretty obviously doing the better work, and even though Smith clearly seemed frustrated at various points.
The judges scoring the fight for Smith would’ve been one thing if we were talking something like 115-113 or 115-114. That’d be tough to swallow for a lot of people, but you could perhaps form that into a reasonable argument if you worked hard enough. But 8-4 and 9-3 in rounds for Smith is beyond just being questionable, it gives the impression that Ryder really had no chance to win this fight on the cards
“I thought I won most of the early rounds,” Smith said. “It wasn’t the best performance from myself. I’ll be a better fighter because of it. That was nowhere near the best of me tonight.”
Smith, 29, is continuing to target the top names — Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders are frequently mentioned as possible foes — and suggested that he underperformed because he didn’t fear Ryder.
“I want the best names in the division. I’m not disrespecting John Ryder. But there was no fear tonight. I didn’t believe John Ryder was going to beat me. I want the big names. I want a big name where if I fight like tonight, I’ll lose. That fear will bring the best out of me.”
“I pushed him all the way. I felt like I just edged it. I thought I proved myself on the world scene,” the 31-year-old Ryder said. “I feel the scores were harsh. I forced the fight a lot. I felt like I’d done enough to win that.”
“I thought it was a great fight,” promoter Eddie Hearn said. “I thought Callum Smith dug in, I thought John Ryder was exceptional. I thought it was a close fight. People doubted John coming into the fight. He’s a world-class fighter and he proved that tonight.”
Asked about what’s next for Smith, Hearn didn’t say anything specifically, but he’s looking for a big fight for his guy.
“The phone hasn’t been ringing for Callum Smith. Now after a solid performance, you’d be surprised. I had a few texts during the fight saying, ‘We’ll have Callum Smith next.’ People start saying, ‘Maybe he’s not as untouchable as I thought.’ I really feel now (Smith) needs to be taking those big legacy fights, whether that’s Stateside or Anfield.”