Ray Ford rains down punches on Otabek Kholmatov to win WBA featherweight title

General picture of boxing gloves. Picture: Gilson Junio / AGIF via AFP

General picture of boxing gloves. Picture: Gilson Junio / AGIF via AFP

Published Mar 3, 2024


American Ray Ford clinched the vacant WBA featherweight world title with a thrilling 12th round last-minute stoppage of Uzbekistan's Otabek Kholmatov on Saturday.

Ford was down 106-103 on two of the scorecards going into the final round but the New Jersey fighter landed a strong right hook that left Kholmatov reeling.

With Ford, now 15-0 with one drawn and eight knockouts, raining punches on the wobbling Uzbeki, the referee stepped in.

"I always knew I had it in me. I come from a rough background. There's nothing that can stop me ever," said Ford, bleeding from the eye after an accidental clash of heads.

"I always knew I had a better inside game to him. I didn't expect him to be as sharp as he was as a boxer and he used his legs as much as he could.

"I knew I had to dig down to his body and bring it sharp hooks up upstairs and you know that's my money punch so I knew I could get him out with one of those."

Kholmatov, who had been well on top in the first four rounds, struggled with what appeared to be a knee injury picked up midway through the fight.

Ford began his comeback in round eight, landing a strong right jab and then following up with left upper cut with his opponent struggling for balance.

Kholmatov had Ford on the ropes in the 11th and with Ford bleeding after the head clash, he sensed the chance for victory.

But Ford had other plans, bringing the punches in the 12th to secure an emotional victory.

Ford said he had struggled with the weight drop for the fight and was now considering moving up a division for his next fight.

Earlier, Luis Alberto Lopez retained his IBF featherweight title beating Japan's Reiya Abe by eighth-round stoppage.

The 30-year-old Abe, in his first fight outside of Japan, battled hard but the impact of the flurry of power punches from the Mexican eventually took its toll.

Time was called at the end of the third and fourth rounds as Abe's right eye injury was examined, but he was allowed to continue.

Abe's nose was bleeding in the seventh but still he fought on. The next round, however, proved to be too much for the fighter from Fukushima.

Lopez pinned his opponent against the ropes and rained down a flurry of punches and with Abe struggling to defend himself, the referee called an end to the contest.

The victory extends Lopez's record to 30-2 while Abe suffered his fourth loss in 26 fights.


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