Kholmatov-Bound Ford Hoping to Lift Others Up In Victory

There is a featherweight title fight you better not sleep on this Saturday night.

Camden’s Raymond Ford has his first shot at a world title against Ukrainian Otabek Kholmatov at the Turning Stone in Oneida in upstate New York.

Ford is a gifted southpaw – poised and cultured, slick, quick, and gifted. 

He’s also only 24 and a former Golden Gloves champion who has keenly waited for his big chance.

Ford is on hostile territory. He is a Matchroom fighter who boxes on DAZN but on Saturday he fights on a Top Rank show on ESPN.

Top Rank won the purse bids for the fight, but Ford doesn’t pay any mind to the politics. He just wants to fight.

Ford has a troubled past, but boxing helped shape his future. It gave him hope when there had never been a whole lot of that.

“I used to fight a lot, I had a lot of anger issues,” he admitted, as the Kholmatov fight drew near.

“I would fight and get in trouble.”

Ford stops there. He does not want to brag or glamorize this part of his life. But to see where a man is, sometimes you must know where he has been.

Did he get into serious trouble?

“Yes, I did,” he responds. 

“I got suspended from school – I got expelled, and I went to juvey for a year. It’s nothing cool being in juvey [juvenile detention]. You’re around a bunch of males, just like you. There are no females in there. I like being around females.”

But boxing changed his path. It gave him a different identity and belief that his life could be better. He was also good at it, and admired the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Roy Jones Jr and Andre Ward. 

He started to grow up, too.

“For sure, and of course getting older and being more mature, too – just making better decisions in life,” Ford explained. “I got back into boxing in my senior year in high school and I’ve just been locking in since.”

But the road has not always run smoothly. There was a draw against Aaron Perez in a fight many thought he won, and a win in a fight against Edward Vazquez many thought he lost.

Yet they were lessons – obstacles to glean experience from, to improve from, and to make him a more rounded fighter.

Ford, 14-0-1 (7 KOs) recognises that those narrow fights have served him better than a string of knockovers ever could. 

Asked which contests he learned the most from, he said: “The ones that were closer than the others.” 

Then, he goes into more details. It was in the camps; in the prep. There were things he could have done better so he started doing it.

“It was more about preparing for those fights,” he went on. “I changed things up and that’s where I learned the most, preparing up to the fight. I’m saying like as far as making weight;, rehydrating properly. Things like that.”

Ford boxes with a swagger. It looks like he loves it, but he is not one who necessarily loves the media, the crowds of fight week or the demands placed on him before a big fight.

“I don’t really care for it,” he said.

He also has not cared for being written off by fans or critics after a performance when he has not dazzled. Again, it is part of the journey – part of the rollercoaster and an important part of the education.

Dealing with the social media fall out is part of it; being written off after a bad night in the office happens to everyone.

“Yeah, but you know, that’s the same with any fighter,” he continued. “I definitely experienced that. When I first experienced it, I dealt with it kind of hard. Now it’s just like I don’t do this for nobody but my family and myself, so I couldn’t care less about what anybody else says. I know who I am as a fighter and as a person.”

And entertaining his family and friends is a big part of his motivation.

The Camden youngster might have his first big title fight in upstate New York, but after that it’s not the bright light of Vegas or the riches of Saudi Arabia that appeal to him, it’s the chance to box at home in front of his people, and having the chance to show the tearaway teen came good.

He wants to box in Camden.

“Of course I want to go back home and fight on the east coast, where my fan base is; where my friends and family are,” he said.

“That’s what every fighter’s dream is – to go back home and perform in front of their loved ones. That’s my main dream – to go back home to fight. 

“Anything else can come after.”

It starts on Saturday, against the respected Kholmatov in an intriguing clash of styles, but there is only one thing on Ford’s mind, and it’s not getting into trouble as a kid, boxing in Camden, or what happens next.

“Just keep winning, keep putting on great performances, keep outclassing everybody I get in there with and keep staying in the gym, working on my craft and staying focused,” he said of his future plans.

So what drives him? Legacy? Money? Staying unbeaten? The chance to fight at home?

“It’s all of the above,” he said. “Of course, no fighter wants to lose, but it happens. It’s boxing. You’re fighting and when you get in there with the best, anything can happen. So I definitely want to make big fights and big-money fights. 

“That’s the ultimate goal – to make money in this sport, so I won’t ever have to work outside of boxing and none of my family close to me, my friends, don’t go to work or anything like that. I want to lift everybody up with me.”