This weekend Britain’s John ‘The Gorilla’ Ryder (27-4-0 (15 KO)), will take on Australian Bilal Akkawy (20-0-1 (16 KO)) for the WBA Interim Super-Middleweight title.
Ranked number one contender by the WBA, Ryder was due to originally face David Lemieux before the latter injured his hand, but he retains hope that a victory over number four ranked contender Akkawy, will still set up a super-fight with either Canelo or WBA champion, Callum Smith.
Since a close split-decision loss to Rocky Fielding in April 2017, Ryder has had three impressive victories: a seventh round KO of Patrick Nielsen (29-1-0 at the time), a second round KO of Jamie Cox (25-1-0 at the time) and a fifth round TKO over the then unbeaten Andrey Sirotkin (15-0-0).
Akkawy poses his own, different threat, but not in such distinguished company. The former WBA Oceania Champion's best win to date was a unanimous points victory over former WBA Regular champion, Giovanni De Carolis. He is a stable mate of Canelo’s and trains under Eddy Reynosa, but despite the short notice his camp remain buoyant and believe they can win.
His uncle and manager, Allan Akkawy, says,
“We are taking it at short notice and God willing Bilal will come away with a knockout win. Ryder is similar to former world rated Kerry Hope who Bilal stopped. He is the same height and is also a southpaw. Ryder has less movement and when he feels Bilal’s power it should change the direction of the fight.”
Indeed. Ryder is a southpaw and is listed as a similar height to Hope (Ryder is 5’ 9”, Hope is 5’ 10”), but that is where the similarities end.
Style-wise, Ryder is a slick boxer-fighter, comfortable at either evading danger with skilled footwork or using his power to engage. He has a quick jab and despite a very linear posture, he attacks in varied lines and has good hand-speed. Bilal, in contrast, is more rough and rugged. He favours the right hand (‘the power’ as his uncle likely refers to it) but has less guile and craft, tending to charge forward – barrelling in – and looks to set it up with slow (slower than Ryder’s anyhow) single or double jabs. His footwork isn’t as advanced and consequently sees him attack in straight, predictable lines.
Prediction wise, this writer, Eddie Hearn and the bookies favour a Ryder victory. I favour a mid-to-late stoppage, somewhere between rounds seven and ten. Tactically, I think Ryder will choose to box the early and middle rounds, engaging periodically but mostly using his jab and footwork to stretch ahead on the scorecards without getting caught. Bilal, who has never been beyond ten rounds will tire and then he will be stopped, I predict, in round eight.