Zach Parker v John Ryder: The young gun and the seasoned veteran set for classic all-British encounter

John Ryder in a white hooded ring outfit before a fight
John Ryder is 34 years old with 36 fights in his career

Zach Parker versus John Ryder has all the hallmarks of being a classic all-British encounter.

The rivals met on Thursday at a media conference before their fight for the vacant WBO interim super-middleweight title on Saturday and the narrative on show was a tried and tested one.

The young contender up against the seasoned veteran.

Parker, 28, is out of proof he belongs at a top level. Ryder believes the “young gun” is out of his depth about him.

At 34, Ryder is billed as the veteran fighter past his best. Parker is the hard-hitting rising star primed for the big time.

“It’s definitely my hardest fight to date,” Parker tells BBC Sport. “All the question marks are around me really because he’s been in there with top guys.”

Parker is the undefeated and untested, big puncher. With 16 knockouts in 22 wins, he boasts a 73% knockout rate and has collected five stoppages in a row.

Ryder in contrast has been in with some of the best in the world such as former world champions Callum Smith and Billy Joe Saunders. Or, as Parker puts it, Ryder has “been around the block”.

Five losses and 17 knockouts in 31 wins make Ryder the more experienced fighter by far but he is almost amused by the “veteran status” being placed on him by Team Parker.

Ryder upset the odds in February when he beat American Daniel Jacobs and was then chosen by the WBO to contend for their vacant interim super-middleweight title after Parker’s initial opponent Demetrius Andrade pulled out through injury.

However, Parker’s team see the contest as the perfect opportunity to announce himself as a genuine contender.

For Ryder, he knows the house’s money is on Parker.

“It’s important to relish the underdog mentality,” Ryder said. “People don’t give you much credit so it’s down to you to shine. People are expecting nothing from me.

“They’re expecting him to do a number on me.”

‘Nothing outweighs experience’

John Ryder shakes hands with Callum Smith
Ryder lost a points decision to Callum Smith in 2019, a fight many thought the won

Ryder upset the odds by beating two-time world champion Jacobs. He believes for much of his career that he has been cast as the underdog.

He plans to surprise people again on Saturday at London’s O2 Arena and, while he accepts Parker is a hard hitter, he says the level opposition is nowhere near that he has faced previously.

“Experience is something you can’t buy,” he says. “There’s not much I haven’t seen in a pro ring. I’ve been headbutted, I’ve been elbowed. Not much I haven’t seen, southpaw, switch hitter, come forward, backfoot fighter – I’ve seen it all.

“I’ve got to use these experiences I’ve gained in the ring to fuel me and push me on.”

‘I want to be known like Froch and Calzaghe’ – Parker

Zach Parker celebrates as the referee steps in to stop the fight
Parker is aiming for a sixth stoppage win in a row

The winner of Saturday’s encounter will put themselves in prime position to challenge WBO champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.

The Mexican is unbeaten at super-middleweight and both men are eager to step into the ring against one of boxing’s biggest stars.

Ryder, though, knows never to look past your next contest.

“I think he’d be a fool to underestimate me. I’m not underestimating him either,” he says.

“He needs his stand-out moment and I’m sure he’s hoping it’ll be against me. But I’m there to upset the apple cart and keep my career progressing.”

Parker insists his focus is firmly on Ryder, even if he dreams of a future where he is mentioned in the same breath as Joe Calzaghe and Carl Froch.

“You see the likes of Calzaghe against Jeff Lacey, that was meant to be a real hard fight for him and he put a clinic on,” Parker says.

“That’s what I want to do as well. I want to be known like the top guys of the past, the likes of Froch and Calzaghe and the likes of Ricky Hatton.”

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