Sweaty eyeballs, bruised hands and the worst smell imaginable: What it’s really like to train with a pro boxer

John Ryder, pictured, and his coaches put Indy Sport’s Alex Pattle through his paces

John Ryder is standing in front of me, inches away, gloves raised, eyes studying the various targets that form my body. A bead of sweat crawls down my brow and slips over my eyelid, slooshing into my eyeball with the sharpest of stings. And with that, I’m wincing before the two-time interim world champion has even lanced a jab at my ribcage.

But if a single bead of sweat was enough to compromise me, it could have been much worse. Just six months ago, Ryder was in the ring with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, in the pound-for-pound great’s native Mexico, challenging for the undisputed super-middleweight titles as 50,000 locals shouted “Puta!” at him. What’s more, after weeks of working on his nasal breathing, Ryder suffered a shattered nose in just the second round of the full 12. Still, sweat can really sting, you know?

“I felt the crunch of it,” Ryder recalls of the moment when Alvarez broke his nose en route to a decision win, as I speak with the 35-year-old Londoner in the ring after our session of light body-sparring. “Then I felt the blood flowing through my nostrils, and I felt it down the back of my throat as well.” Although Ryder was ultimately beaten by Canelo – most are – he produced a valiant performance, especially after suffering the nose injury and then a knockdown in Round 5. “He didn’t catch me with the hardest shot,” Ryder says, “but I wasn’t as close to the ropes as I thought I was. I thought I could kind of bounce off them.”

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