Islington's John "The Gorilla" Ryder will face Australian Bilal Akkaway (20-0-1) at the T-mobile Arena on the undercard to Canelo Alvarez vs Daniel Jacob in an Interim WBA world Super-middleweight title fight knowing that the opportunity first presented to him was far tougher on paper than the 25-year-old Akkaway, who he now faces as a replacement.
David Lemieux was due to face Ryder who won a WBA final eliminator against unbeaten Russian Andrey Sirotkin last October to become WBA super-middleweight, mandatory contender.
Lemieux, the former IBF middleweight champion had faced a much higher level of opposition to the Sydney born Aussie. Names such as Gennady Golovkin, Billy Joe Saunders, Gabriel Rosado Hassan N'Dam and Curtis Stevens adorn the Canadian's record and meant that Ryder would have started the underdog had they met.
In Akkaway, Ryder meets a tough competitor that will not be found wanting if it comes to a battle of attrition. He has served as a sparring partner to Canelo and is said to be both brave and tough in the heat of battle.
Ryder has served a tough apprenticeship as a pro, going 15-0 before challenging Billy Joe Saunders for the British and Commonwealth Middleweight titles. A unanimous decision loss was no disgrace but further losses to Nick Blackwell and Jack Arnfield in title fights seemed to indicate that Ryder was a domestic level practitioner.
However, a move up in weight brought mixed results. After a good win over Adam Etches, Ryder found himself on the wrong end of a split decision loss to future WBA Super-middleweight champion Rocky Fielding in the Scouser's hometown Echo Arena for the vacant British Super-middleweight title.
After a 6-month break, the Islington man turned his career around with a 5th round stoppage of Denmark's Patrick Nielson who had only ever lost to teak-tough Russian Dimitrii Chudinov for the Interim WBA world middleweight title on a unanimous decision in Russia.
Next up was Swindon's Jamie Cox whose only loss was to George Groves in the WBSS. Once again Ryder dismissed his highly-rated opponent in style with a 2nd round Knockout. This led to the Sirotkin fight which earned "The Gorilla" his chance on the big stage for the Interim title.
Akkawy lacks experience in comparison to his London rival and will feel that disparity if the fight goes into the later rounds. He has 16 stoppages on his ledger so we must assume he will be dangerous in the early rounds at least.
At the weigh-in both boxers scaled 167.5lbs.
Having only watched the young Aussie on video, I got the impression that he is a bit wild with his shots, liking to throw long looping punches. Ryder should be able to capitalise on this style and stop Akkaway in the last 4 rounds of the fight.