This weekend is a big one for trainer Tony Sims.

He has two mainstays of his Essex stable in competition and while both are on the brink of hugely-significant fights, John Ryder and Felix Cash have plenty of work ahead of them at the Alexandra Palace if they are to move forwards.

Super-middleweight John Ryder tops the bill against accomplished New Yorker Danny Jacobs in a pivotal bout. The winner will be a fight or two from a shot at a world title and Jacobs is the betting favourite.

“He starts off as a big underdog for a start,” Sims said of Ryder. “If you look at Jacobs’s calibre, who he’s fought and what he’s done he’s obviously a massive favourite. John’s in brilliant condition and he’s never shied away from fighting anybody and Eddie Hearn has been trying for the last year to get John a major fight. At one point he was going to fight [Dmitriy] Bivol and move up a weight, then he was supposed to fight David Morrell for the WBA regular but that got messy so nothing happened. We’ve been trying to get a big name and Eddie’s managed to get Danny Jacobs over, one of the biggest names in world boxing, and it’s a great opportunity for John.”

Ryder is a 33-year-old southpaw who turned pro in 2010. He’s run up 30 wins against five defeats and has won twice since a close and controversial points loss to Callum Smith.

Jacobs has won twice since his most recent loss, to Canelo Alvarez, and he was criticised for a lacklustre display against Gabe Rosado last time out. 

“Everyone’s probably looks at Jacobs’s last fight against Rosado, which was a flat performance, but you can’t really look too much into that fight because anyone can box like that,” Sims explained. “John boxed like that out in Miami [against Mike Guy] after the Callum Smith fight, he had a flat performance, so you can’t really look into that but it’s going to be a tough fight and if Jacobs doesn’t turn up and John does, it will be a good result for John.” 

Make no mistake, however, Sims knows his man is in deep. He’s full of respect and admiration for boxing’s ‘Miracle Man’ and he’s followed his career closely.

“Danny’s a brilliant fighter,” admitted Sims. “I’ve studied Jacobs through the years. I love the way he fights. Defensively he’s a master and me and John were fortunate to be ringside when Jacobs fought Canelo and John fought on the undercard that night and watching him up close, he’s a master of what he does with defense, he’s got a great jab, he punches hard and he’s a great fighter.”

But he’s also confident in his charge. Ryder has shown he has what it takes to mix it at world level and he’s confident that the fans will have a good night on their hands.

“It’s a good fight,” Sims said. “When John fought Callum Smith, no one really gave John a chance before that fight and afterwards thought John won the fight. He [Ryder]’s a good fighter, he’s experienced so it’s going to be a good fight.”

And it’s not only Jacobs who has blown hot and cold. Ryder has been guilty of it, too, and Sims believes Ryder will be ready to go on Saturday.  

“I just think that John, like a lot of fighters, he needs the big names and big occasions to get up for,” Tony continued. “Like against Callum Smith, he rose to the occasion. When we went to Vegas and boxed that unbeaten Australian who was in the Eddie Reynoso camp… so he gets up for the big occasions and turns in good performances. When he’s against fighters he knows he can beat, he doesn’t get up for them. At the end of the day, you’ve still got to do your work and you’ve got to do the job but that’s just the way that he is and I think he’ll be up for the Jacobs fight. He knows what he’s going up against and he’s had some good sparring.”

As well as stablemate Felix Cash, Ryder’s been getting rounds in with 30-2 Pole Maciej Sulecki, who went the distance with Jacobs in 2018, in what Sims has called “a good camp.”

It’s worked out well for Felix Cash, 14-0, who has his first fight since last April when he impressed winning the British title against Denzel Bentley. 

Cash then endured a traumatic period away from the ring which have kept him out until this weekend, and he meets 15-0-2 Russian Magomed Madiev on the Ryder-Jacobs undercard.

“He’s had a lot of personal troubles,” added Sims. “He was matched in August to fight in Fight Camp and I had to pull him off that bill because of a break up with his wife and there are kids and his head wasn’t in the game. Then he was put on to a fight in October [when] his four cousins all died in a car crash a few weeks before so his head wasn’t right so I had to pull him out again. He’s been back in camp for the last 12 weeks and it’s been a good camp.

“The Russian he’s fighting is No. 3 with the WBA and he’s a good fighter, it’s going to be another hard fight. When you get to this level, they’re decent and you’ve got to start turning it on. People have started talking about Felix Cash as maybe the next contender for a world title so he’s got to beat this calibre of fighter.”

Ryder and Cash have been in the gym regularly but there is a difference between the gym and fight night and Sims is aware of that, and in making the fights he’s looked at the activity of the opponents and both Jacobs and Madiev have been far from prolific.

“Obviously you don’t want your fighters to be inactive, activity is the best way, but if you look at Jacobs, John’s boxed more regularly than him and Felix hasn’t boxed since last April but his opponent’s not boxed since last May, so there’s only a month in that one,” Sims concluded. “Covid messed a lot of activity up for fighters but there’s nothing in it between them and their opponents. That shouldn’t make a lot of difference.”