The blood still dripped from John Ryder’s broken nose as he sat down to address the throng of media gathered in the bowels of the Estadio Akron just before midnight local time.
The bone had shattered in the second round when Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez landed with a sharp right hand. Three rounds later he was dropped heavily as he gulped back a steady flow of his own blood in order to keep breathing.
“I felt it go instantly,” Ryder said, wiping blood off the table in front of him. “It threw me for a couple of rounds but it is what it is.”
Despite all that, Ryder made it through all 12 rounds of his challenge for the Mexican icon’s four super-middleweight belts on a night he will never forget as long as he lives. It was a performance that led Canelo to label Ryder as the best of the eight British men he now holds wins over.
By the time Canelo had made that evaluation at his press conference in the early hours of Sunday morning, Ryder was already back at the fight hotel, battered, bruised and with a bandage strapped around his nose but surrounded by the friends and family who made the trip. He would by then have seen the hugely positive response to his gutsy performance from across the boxing world.
And, although the north Londoner had suggested pre-fight that he would only keep fighting as long as he was winning, Ryder has vowed to box on after enhancing his reputation in defeat.
“I think I’ll carry on,” he said. “I got a lot of enjoyment out of that fight, although I got a busted nose. Ultimately, though, I’ll sit down with the team and my family and just evaluate.
“I’ve got no regrets, I just could have done without getting hit with that punch in the second round, then things could have been different. But I’m just happy I live to see another day and fight another fight. I’m sat here looking like an absolute victim with my nose in plaster but, listen, I’ve dared to dream and I’ve come up short.
“The overriding feeling is that I’m gutted but I’ll sit down now with my team and see where we go from there.
“Coming away with a win was the ultimate goal, going the distance isn’t. I made a fight of it for a while but on the scorecards it wasn’t that close. Moral victory? Maybe, yeah. But I came here with a dream and I didn’t achieve it.
“I’m just gutted. I’ve put so much into the sport over the last few years and haven’t always got the rub of the green. I came here with a dream but I fell short - that’s boxing. I won’t be the first and I won’t be the last.”
It looked as though Ryder could be on the verge of a stoppage in the fifth round when a straight, hard one-two combination sent him staggering back against the ropes and then onto the canvas. But the man known as the Gorilla says it was the spirit of another famous British super-middleweight that got him through the crisis.
“It’s all that time I’ve spent with Nigel Benn,” said Ryder, who trains alongside the former world champion’s son Conor in Tony Sims’ gym.
“I just thought to myself ‘what would Nigel Benn do? He’d come out swinging. He’d probably knock him out though. I didn’t do that, unfortunately. Listen I’m in the gym around great fighters and idols so I could pull from the best in the business.”
Canelo had predicted during fight week that he would be able to get rid of Ryder inside six rounds and even said he’d retire from boxing if he was beaten at the Akron Stadium. And Ryder believes his inability to find that stoppage is evidence the 32-year-old is in decline after 63 fights as a professional.
Of Canelo, Ryder added: “He was very good but I think he is past his best but he still had enough in his tank tonight.
“Why is he past his best? Because he couldn’t get me out of there. His plan was to stop me and he didn’t. I know I took a great shot in the fifth round but I came back swinging and had some good rounds after that.”
But Canelo only smiled when he was later told of Ryder’s assessment.
“For them it’s a win not getting knocked out, right?” the Mexican said. “But we need to give him credit. He came to fight. His preparation was very good, and I respect the fight he did.
“He’s strong. He did everything in the ring, and that’s what I expected. I saw him fighting with the other guys, and he’s tough. I think he’s the best British fighter I’ve faced.”
This was Canelo’s first fight back in his home town of Guadalajara since 2011 when he beat another Brit, Ryan Rhodes, across town at the Arena VFG. He has since evolved into a genuine boxing superstar and the biggest attraction in the sport.
On this Cinco de Mayo weekend, more than 50,000 people packed inside the stadium, where Mexican top-flight team Chivas play their home games. And, although he failed to get the stoppage he craved, Canelo said: “Tonight was more than I even expected. I’m just proud about fighting here with my people and bringing this kind of fight for them. They deserve it, and it’s more than I expected.”
Now Canelo will look ahead to his second date of the year, Mexican Independence Day which falls on September 16, and confirmed that he hopes to secure a rematch with Dmitry Bivol who beat him 12 months ago.
“That’s my goal this year,” he said. “But you know, if that fight doesn’t happen – we’ll see – but that’s my goal this year.”