It had it all.

A hot crowd…epic ring entrance…solid action…and the hometown hero left with his hand raised. 

But enough about Bad Bunny’s big night at WWE Backlash. In front of a massive crowd at Estadio Akron, world super middleweight champion Saul Alvarez picked up his second win since a loss at light heavyweight to Dmitrii Bivol. It was Alvarez’s second defense of the undisputed crown he unified against Caleb Plant in 2021 and fifth defense of the WBC and WBA belts Alvarez added to his mantle versus Callum Smith. 

Alvarez now stands at 8-0 in super middleweight fights overall. He also remains one of the sport’s most consistent competitors. Ryder was rated in the top ten of his division by TBRB and Ring Magazine, Alvarez’s fifth-straight such opponent and eleventh in his last twelve starts.

The fight itself was expected to be an Alvarez win and it was, in one-sided scoring fashion. The scores alone don’t tell the whole story. Alvarez’s skill, experience, and power was far too high an obstacle for Ryder to clear but Ryder’s effort merits a nod.

It was a fight where the challenger was all but hopeless before the opening bell. The fight, as an athletic competition, felt pointless despite Ryder’s position as a mandatory and consensus top ten contender in the division. Ryder was the sort of contender suitable to an event built as a celebration of Alvarez in his first home country appearance in more than a decade.

When Ryder was dropped in round five, it was reasonable to assume the end was near.

It wasn’t. 

Ryder fought his heart out for all twelve rounds, refusing to fall again or yield to the moment. Ryder kept throwing, often landing clever lead right hooks and uppercuts at close quarters. Ryder’s nose was busted, his face a bloody mess, and yet he did everything anyone could have asked from him to try to win.

For Alvarez, it was a dominant victory that also raised questions. Alvarez has risen to where he is in part for his defense but Saturday, whether by apathy or the hints of age and wear beginning to show, was hit with a lot of shots. Apathy has to be considered here as Alvarez didn’t seem all that interested in even the pretense of defense most of the night. 

Relaxed and pressing, Alvarez was looking for the knockout and never seemed bothered by the shots Ryder was landing. Alvarez did show some late signs of fatigue though which allowed Ryder to make a case for some winning frames in the last third of the fight. 

With bigger, better fights looming, it will make some wonder just how dangerous the mines ahead could be.

Futures: Alvarez’s late fade and the amount of leather he took on Saturday dovetail with an often-lethargic performance against Bivol and a workmanlike (if still lopsided) win in the third Golovkin fight. Alvarez looked locked in a zone, his game stepped to a new level, from the second Golovkin fight through the win over Caleb Plant.

The eyes say Alvarez is not in that zone anymore. That’s not a stunner. Fighters eighteen years into a career are bound to start to slow down and it doesn’t mean Alvarez doesn’t have another gem or two in him. But there's been a noticeable shift in his performances the last three fights. If he pursues the Bivol rematch, Alvarez will have to be a heavy underdog.

It would be an incredible victory if Alvarez could pull it off. If he couldn’t, it might be the sort of rematch that leaves fans wondering what the point was; it might not be the most fan-friendly or richest option. 

A pay-per-view showdown with David Benavidez might be the biggest Mexican/Mexican-American showdown in boxing since Oscar De La Hoya-Fernando Vargas and that’s a fight where the action wouldn’t be in doubt. At this stage of his career, Alvarez is going to decide based on what he wants and we’ll keep watching.

No matter what we’re watching, there are stuffer tests out there than an older Golovkin or Ryder that will make clear whether Alvarez is starting to decline or simply needs bigger challenges to get all the way up at this point.  

Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at