Big Fight Preview: Otabek Kholmatov vs Raymond Ford

This Saturday, Uzbek sensation Otabek Kholmatov (12-0-0) will clash with American southpaw Raymond Ford (14-1-0) for the vacant WBA Featherweight world title at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, USA.

Kholmatov and Ford, ranked at No.1 and No.2 in the WBA featherweight rankings respectively, will contest for the vacant world title, which was recently relinquished by Leigh Wood.

The Uzbek, Kholmatov, has an incredible knockout percentage of 91.67%, with his most notable win being a stoppage over County Durham’s Tommy Patrick Ward, who at the time had a record of 33-0.

Ford, on the other hand, is slightly less heavy handed, with a knockout percentage of 50%, however possesses a supreme boxing ability.

His most recent win over Jesse Magdaleno (29-0-1) was a career best, dropping the former WBO super-bantamweight world champion twice on the way to a wide unanimous points decision victory.

Credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom Boxing

The American has been a professional boxer since 2019, with 89 rounds in the bank across his 15 fights. Whereas Kholmatov turned professional two years later, and has only boxed 47 rounds.

Now Florida-based, Kholmatov will fight in the US for the fourth time in his professional boxing career this coming Saturday.

Both men stand at 5”7 and only one year separates them in age, with 24-year-old Ford being a year younger than the Uzbek.

After Top Rank winning the purse bids for the fight, it will be shown live on ESPN, despite Raymond Ford being promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.

Ford told BoxingScene: “It doesn’t matter who’s promoting the fight. As long as I’ve got a ring and a person in front of me, it’s going to feel like home.”

2R4ENPG Luis Alberto Lopez celebrates after defeating Michael Conlan in the IBF world featherweight title bout at the SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture date: Saturday May 27, 2023.

In the Featherweight division, the IBF belt will be contested between champion Luis Alberto Lopez and Reiya Abe of Japan on the same show as the bout between Kholmatov and Ford.

The WBC champion Rey Vargas will defend his belt against British contender Nick Ball next week on the undercard of Anthony Joshua vs Francis Ngannou in Saudi Arabia.

Rafael Espinoza holds the WBO belt, which he won last December against Robeisy Ramirez.

The featherweight division is certainly alive and Saturday’s results could completely change its landscape, setting up unification fights that could potentially happen later in the year.

Fight Prediction:

Kholmatov is an incredibly fast starter and possesses scary punching power. Ford, while looking to take the fight deep out his southpaw stance and utilise his tricky style, also has the power to hurt the Uzbek. I expect a slow first couple of rounds, as Kholmatov will have to figure out Raymond Ford, who is very good defensively.

However, I believe that with Kholmatov’s pressure and power, he will eventually catch Ford in the later rounds when the American begins to tire. I think Kholmatov will win via TKO in rounds 9/10.