John Ryder secured the biggest victory of his career on Saturday night, edging past Daniel Jacobs with a split-decision win in front of a raucous hometown crowd in London.
With Ryder entering the bout at 33 years of age and his American opponent having turned 35 earlier this month, a loss felt like it could signal the end of either man’s chances of reigning as super-middleweight champion.
Jacobs, a former two-time middleweight title holder, exhibited his undeniable ring craft in the early rounds, looking the quicker of the two fighters and landing with well-timed counters.
Jacobs utilised his jab well to keep Ryder at range and switched stances intermittently to keep the home favourite guessing. Ryder pressed forward throughout but was lacking the guile to create openings, though he gradually began to find success with hooks to the body and head in the clinch.
Ryder began to land from range with greater consistency but was being taxed for each entry with more sharp counter shots from Jacobs, who settled into an orthodox stance.
The tide began to turn in the latter half of the fight, however, as Jacobs reverted to southpaw and Ryder began to find his rhythm with darting entries. The snap in Jacobs’ punches was slackening, and Ryder looked to be stealing close rounds with impactful moments – such as a flowing combination of hooks and uppercuts late in the seventh frame.
Ryder continued to push forward keenly as the Alexandra Palace crowd reacted to every shot he landed, with the hometown fighter keeping Jacobs off balance, against the ropes, and even out of sorts with a right hook at the end of the eight round.
Ryder’s confidence was evidently growing, while Jacobs looked to re-establish his technical prowess to regain control of the contest. The American was able to make use of his jab to keep Ryder at bay for a short while, though the Briton was largely undeterred and continued to punctuate his moments of pressure with right hooks to the head of the tourist.
Ryder appeared to take the 11th round, and though each frame was increasingly difficult to call, the gap on the judges’ scorecards had surely narrowed significantly.
A busy showing from Jacobs in the final round seemed to have sealed a narrow victory for the veteran, though only one of the three judges agreed.
While they scored the bout 115-113 in the American’s favour, the remaining two scorecards read 115-113 to Ryder, who celebrated jubilantly as he was crowned the winner in the Palace.
A super-middleweight title bout may just be next for the Londoner, with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez among the names potentially on the horizon for Ryder. A clash with Gennady Golovkin – another former foe of Jacobs – could also await.