Eddie Hearn Targets Unified Fight For New Featherweight Champion Raymond Ford

March 4, 2024
1 month
Raymond Ford

Matchroom Boxing chief Eddie Hearn has laid out a hopeful plan to secure new WBA featherweight world champion Raymond Ford an immediate shot at a unification title fight.

Ford (15-0-1 8 KO) captured his first world title in spectacular style last Saturday at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York. The American trailed on two of the three judges’ scorecards entering the final round of his bout with Otabek Kholmatov, but he produced a late attack and after a flurry of punches that sent the Uzbek stumbling back, referee Charlie Fitch waved off the contest with seven seconds of the fight remaining.

Now Ford’s promoter Hearn is looking ahead to his next challenge and proposed that his fighter could be added to the Matchroom vs Queensbury, five-vs-five card on June 1 in Saudi Arabia. That, however, would depend on Queensbury fighter Nick Ball defeating WBC featherweight champion Rey Vargas on the Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou undercard on March 8.

Should that happen, it would mean Ford’s first title defense could be in a unified fight.

“Next week in Saudi there’s a great fight, Nick Ball against Rey Vargas,” Hearn said moments after Ford won the WBA title. “It’ll be really interesting to see who wins that, you know. If Nick Ball wins, maybe we get that cut stitched up and stick Ray on the 5v5 [event].”

A lot would have to fall into place to make that fight happen, namely Ball beating Vargas, although the Englishman is the marginal bookies’ favorite less than a week out from the fight.

Regardless of whether he ultimately pulls this fight off, Hearn is confident Ford has a massive future ahead of him.

“He’s become a star now in American boxing,” Hearn said. “A lot of people watched that show tonight. A lot of people will become a Ray Ford fan and I’d like to see him make one or two defenses, maybe a unification, and then move up to super feather[weight].”

Plenty of interesting fights could await Ford when he decides to step up to super-featherweight. Former WBA featherweight champion Leigh Wood, who vacated the belt to move up to 130lbs which allowed Ford the opportunity to fight for it, would appear an obvious fight to make.

There are also the four champions to take aim at: the WBO’s Emanuel Navarrete, the IBF’s Joe Cordina, the WBC’s O’Shaquie Foster, and the WBA’s Lamont Roach.

Ford ‘Brought The Dog Out’

Reflecting on his performance and dramatic victory on Saturday night, Ford said he knew he had to search for the late knockout as the rounds were too close to call. As it worked out, Kholmatov led 106-103 on two cards, while one judge had it 105-104 to Ford.

“My coach told me to bring that dog out. We knew we were coming into their territory. This wasn’t under our promotion. But we had to dig deep,” said Ford. “The whole time in the corner, I kept telling myself, ‘I’m going to stop him.’ I felt him breaking down as the rounds went on.

“I knew I had to stop him. The rounds were too close. I just had to bring that dog out that my coaches were talking about. I always knew I had it in me. I come from a rough background. There’s nothing that can stop me. Ever.”

As for his future plans, Ford admitted that he is likely to move up to super-featherweight sooner rather than later.

 “I started off a little slow. I felt I didn’t really have the energy and the legs to be the sharper boxer I know I can be. That was due to a tough weight cut. So, this may be my last fight at 126,” Ford said. “Then, we’ll go up to 130 and call out the champions there.”