‘He’s Nothing Special’: Otabek Kholmatov Expects To Stop Raymond Ford In Five Rounds

March 1, 2024
4 months
Otabek Kholmatov

Otabek Kholmatov has said he does not rate Raymond Ford ahead of their title bout on Saturday and expects to stop the American within five rounds.

Kholmatov (12-0-0 11 KO) takes on Ford (14-0-1 7 KO) for the vacant WBA featherweight world title on March 3 at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York. Both fighters enter the bout with unbeaten records and with ambitions to be among the best at 126lbs.

It will also pit a clash of styles against each other as the efficient and fundamental sound Kholmatov takes his ferocious knockout power into the ring against the slick and quick Ford. While the pre-fight forecast expects this to be an extremely close fight – the bookies have made Kholmatov the marginal favorite – the Uzbek has dismissed Ford as a threat and is predicting an easy night’s work.

“I don’t think he is very good,” Kholmatov told BoxingScene. “I really don’t expect much from Ford at all, he doesn’t have any power. I don’t think he’ll last more than five rounds with me. You will see. Just like in all my previous fights, you will see another beautiful knockout. Ford is nothing special.”

Kholmatov’s rise since turning pro in August 2021 went largely under the radar for the first two years of his career. Despite fighting a remarkable nine times in his first four months – all wins secured by knockout – the Uzbek did not fight anyone of note.

Kholmatov – Leigh Wood Ran Scared

However, his one-sided points win over Andranik Grigorian in March 2022 and the fifth-round destruction of the previously unbeaten former European super-bantamweight champion Thomas Patrick Ward 12 months later made the division take notice.

Those performances installed Kholmatov as the No 1 challenger for the WBA title and made him mandatory for a shot at champion Leigh Wood. However, the Englishman vacated, leaving Kholmatov to fight No 2-ranked Ford for the belt this weekend.

“Leigh Wood has never been a real champion,” Kholmatov added. “He was afraid to fight me, otherwise he would have faced his challenges. My name, not his, will remain in the history of world boxing.”

Kholmatov is convinced that a win over Ford on Saturday will be just the start on his road to boxing greatness. The featherweight division is stacked with talent and opportunity; with four separate champions, there should be plenty of chances to unify, while potential glamor fights await with the likes of Josh Warrington, Stephen Fulton, and Mauricio Lara.

Kholmatov or Ford – whoever emerges as the winner – will also be keeping a close eye on the co-main event fight of their bill as IBF champion Luis Alberto Lopez defends his title against Reiya Abe.

‘Dream Come True To Be World Champion’

There is plenty that awaits the winner on Saturday, and Kholmatov is determined that he will be the one with the belt wrapped around his waist come the end of the fight.

“This fight is just the beginning of my journey and towards the pinnacle of the sport, glory and universal recognition,” Kholmatov, 25, said. “My whole country is at home waiting for my victory because boxing is the most popular sport in Uzbekistan.

 “I am thoroughly prepared. I have never felt so good to be honest. We’ve worked a lot on improving my defense. I see nothing but victory for me and Uzbekistan on Saturday. I am very excited about the upcoming fight with Ray Ford. It will be a dream come true to become world champion.”

Ford has been equally dismissive of Kholmatov in the build-up to their bout. Ford, who has fine amateur pedigree and was a Golden Gloves champion, has arguably fought higher-level opponents in his career and has been tipped as a future star of American boxing. However, he has faced some criticism following recent performances, in particular a split-decision win over Edward Vasquez that even his own promoter, Eddie Hearn, thought he lost.

“He got a lot of holes in his game. I’m a go in there and dominate,” Ford, 24, said about Kholmatov. “That’s what I train to do. I’m not going in there looking for a close fight. I’m a completely outclass him and show him and the whole world that he’s not on my level.”