Raymond Ford



By Percy Lovell Crawford

When you think of Camden, New Jersey fighters, Jersey Joe Walcott, and Dwight Muhammad Qawi. Slowly rising to Camden prominence is WBA featherweight champion, Raymond Ford. The undefeated (15-0-1) Ford placed himself in a great position with his recent 12th round knockout of previously undefeated Otabek Kholmatov. 

 

Down on the cards, Ford forced the referee to stop the encounter with 7 seconds left in the fight. A fight that, up to this point, falls into the “Fight of the Year,” category. Hoping to capitalize on his performance, Ford is eyeing a summer return to the ring. Contemplating a move up to 130, “Savage” hints at possibly having one more featherweight in him before his ascension to super featherweight. Ford talks about his come from behind victory, future plans, and much more. 

 

Great fight against Otabek Kholmatov. You scored a 12th round knockout with just 7 seconds left in a fight they had you down on the scorecards. Are you pleased with your performance? 

Ford: I appreciate it. Kind of sort of pleased with it. To be honest, on that night, I probably performed the best way that I could. I had a tough weight cut. I didn’t really have my legs under me to move how I wanted to move. 

 

Physically drained from making weight, yet you stop an undefeated fighter with 7 seconds left in the 7th round. Your toughness can’t be questioned. 

Ford: Yes and being mentally strong. Telling myself that I was going to win the fight and I was going to stop him. I was telling myself that from the 5 or 6th round. I just kept telling myself that and I kept it in my head. That’s what happened. 

 

Kholmatov was 12-0 with 11 knockouts. What made you so confident that you would be able to stop him? 

Ford: To be honest, when I got in there, my plan wasn’t to stop him. I wanted to outbox him, make him miss early, and frustrate him. But when I got in there, he was sharp as a boxer. He had a good jab, a good step back, he was making me miss at times. That’s when I decided to change things up, sit there in the pocket and allow him to step in and try to counter off his punches and between his shots. As he started slowing down as the rounds when on, I started touching his body more. That’s when I put it in my head and knew I could stop him. 

 

To be a part of an instant classic and a potential “Fight of the Year,” candidate this early into the year, what does that mean to you?

Ford: It means a lot. I never pictured myself being in a fight like this. I have always seen myself dominating every fight and not really being in a fight where it’s back and forth action. It’s a great thing to be honest. To have one of these up under me. 

 

I personally thought you should have been credited for a knockdown right before you scored the knockout. The ref called it a slip, but you obviously sensed he was dazed because you jumped right on him and forced the stoppage. 

Ford: For sure. I seen it in his eyes and his body language. He was stumbling. I did think it was a slip. When he bounced off the ropes, he tried to grab me, and his momentum kind of fell onto me. I basically tried to get him up off of me and continue punching. I didn’t expect him to go down. The ref called it a slip. It was probably a great thing that he did call it a slip because it didn’t give him time to recover, so I was able to just jump right back on him. 

 

The record of your last 5 opponents is 90-2-1. What does that say about Raymond Ford?

Ford: It says that I’m a dog. I don’t turn down no smoke. I will fight anybody, don’t matter their record, how many knockouts they have, or what type of hype they got around them. I’ll get in there with anybody. 

 

It sounds like you will be moving up in weight. Is it bittersweet to have a huge win like that at 126, but are unable to make the weight? 

Ford: To be honest, I really don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve been talking to my team and Eddie Hearn, and they want me to wait and see. See what’s going on with the WBC belt in the fight with Rey Vargas and Nick Ball. They want me to see what’s going on with that. When that fight is over, let’s see what the numbers look like, see what they offer me, so that’s what I’m going to wait on to dictate whether I move up or not. (Vargas and Ball fought to a draw). 

 

Do you feel like there are things you could do differently to make the cut easier if you decide to stay, or will it always be a struggle getting down to 126? 

Ford: It’s always going to be a tough cut. I think that year layoff of not making the weight. It made it a little tougher than it normally would be. We just have to wait and see. They said I’ll be right back in like 3 or 4 months. I should be back in the ring in the summertime. I feel like if I get right back in the gym, stay locked in, and keep my weight low, I could go for one more. 

 

You were down on the scorecards at the time the knockout occurred. Did you sense that and that’s why you went all in or was that just your mission? 

Ford: It was more of a mission. I wasn’t really thinking about the scorecards. That’s not what I think about when I’m in the fight. I’m just in the moment. I don’t think about scorecards or anything like that. I think about me and my opponent. My team was telling me it was close. I knew it was close and we were in their territory. I knew I had to pick it up. That’s another reason why I took a different approach. Trying to back him up and be the aggressor. I understand some judges like aggressive fighters. I was just doing whatever I could do to win to be honest. 

 

When he turned away to try and get away from you, did you sense the fight was close to being over therefore you would just keep punching until the ref stepped in? 

Ford: I was just going to keep punching. To be honest, I didn’t know how much time was left in the last round. I didn’t know there was only 7 seconds left. I was going to just keep punching. Like I said, win by any means. I wasn’t going to show no mercy just because he turned his back. If the ref don’t step in my job is to keep fighting. I appreciate you for tuning in and supporting, not just me, but Otabek and all the other fighters on the card.

(Additional reporting provided by Miriam Onyango)