Kholmatov vs Ford Fight Card, TV Channel, UK Time, Ring Walks

Kholmatov vs Ford Fight Card, TV Channel, UK Time, Ring Walks

The featherweight division will take centre stage in a high-octane world title doubleheader on Saturday, March 2 at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.

In the main event, Uzbek phenom Otabek Kholmatov will fight Raymond Ford for the vacant WBA featherweight world title. This duel of unbeaten southpaws will see the WBA’s No.1 and No. 2 contenders making their inaugural world title appearances.

In the co-feature, Luis Alberto “El Venado” Lopez defends his IBF world crown against Japanese contender Reiya Abe.

Kholmatov (11-0, 10 KOs) stepped up to face then-unbeaten Armenian Andranik Grigorian in March 2022, decisioning him after 12 dominant rounds. In his last fight, Kholmatov travelled to enemy territory to battle undefeated British contender Thomas Patrick Ward. The Uzbek powerhouse dropped Ward three times, forcing his corner to throw in the towel in the fifth round.

Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs) was a two-time national Golden Gloves champion before entering the paid ranks in March 2019. In 15 pro fights, he has only had one blemish, a draw against then-unbeaten Aaron Perez in March 2021.

Since then, the 24-year-old native of Camden, New Jersey, has gone 6-0 with three knockouts, including wins over undefeated prospects Edward Vazquez and Richard Medina, as well as a victory over former world champion Jessie Magdaleno. Ford dropped Magdaleno twice en route to a 12-round decision win.

Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs), the fighting pride of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, captured the IBF strap by dethroning Josh Warrington in his hometown of Leeds, England, last December.

In May, the 30-year-old travelled to Belfast and beat hometown hero Michael Conlan via fifth-round TKO. Lopez defended his title against division mainstay Joet Gonzalez, emerging victorious via unanimous decision after 12 hard-fought rounds in September.

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Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs), the IBF No. 1 featherweight contender, suffered a few early-career setbacks before a breakout performance against then-undefeated Ren Sasaki in October 2020. The 30-year-old southpaw is unbeaten in five bouts since the Sasaki triumph.

Abe captured his first regional title with a decision win over Hinata Maruta in May 2022 and defended it against Jinki Maeda seven months later. He is coming off a points victory in a world title eliminator against former two-division world champion Kiko Martinez.

Kholmatov vs Ford Undercard

Brian Norman Jr. will defend his WBO International title against Janelson Bocachica in a 10-rounder.

Norman (25-0, 19 KOs) made his pro debut in January 2018 and went 11-0 in his first year in the paid ranks. In 2021, he fought four times, including a first-round TKO against Roque Agustin Junco that December. After a year-long layoff, Norman regained his momentum in 2023 by tallying eight-round decisions against Rodrigo Coria in January and Jesus Perez in May before capturing his first regional title against Quinton Randall in November.

Bocachica (17-2-1, 11 KOs) went 16-0 before handing Mark Reyes Jr. his first pro defeat in February 2021. Since then, he’s been involved in several close contests, including a narrow decision loss to Alberto Palmetta last November.

The undercard will showcase a variety of emerging talents from the Top Rank roster, as well as the return of a home region hero: Undefeated U.S. Olympic silver medalist Duke Ragan (9-0, 1 KO) will see action in an eight-round featherweight clash against Colombia’s Brandon Valdes (15-4, 7 KOs).

Ragan signed with Top Rank in August 2020 and fought four times as a pro before capturing the silver medal in Tokyo. He then continued his career in the paid ranks in 2022 by scoring four additional victories. The Cincinnati native toughed out a split decision victory against Jose Perez last October.

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In a battle of undefeated junior welterweights, Dominican Olympian Rohan Polanco (11-0, 7 KOs) will lock horns against Tarik Zaina (13-0-1, 8 KOs). Polanco conquered a trio of stiff tests last year, each with only one career loss.

He decisioned Ricardo Quiroz in April and earned stoppages against Cesar Francis in July and Keith Hunter in December. Zaina aims to build off his biggest triumph yet, a unanimous decision win over Argentine contender Marcelino Lopez.

U.S. Olympian Troy Isley (11-0, 4 KOs) will face Marcos Hernandez (16-6-2, 3 KOs) in an eight-round middleweight bout. The 25-year-old looks to build off a successful 2023, including a unanimous decision verdict over Mexican veteran Vladimir Hernandez in November.

Heavyweight prospect Brandon Moore (13-0, 8 KOs) takes on Helaman Olguin (9-6-1, 4 KOs) in an eight-rounder. Moore returns following his Top Rank debut in November, an eight-round decision over Robert Simms.

Floyd Diaz (10-0, 3 KOs) puts his unbeaten record on the line in an eight-round bantamweight tilt against the upset-minded Puerto Rican Edwin Rodriguez (12-7-2, 5 KOs). Diaz decisioned once-beaten Max Ornelas for a regional title in November.

Middleweight prospect Nico Ali Walsh (9-1, 5 KOs) will make his 2024 debut in a six-rounder against an opponent to be named. The grandson of “The Greatest” starts his 2024 following a points triumph over Noel Lafargue last December in Conakry, Guinea.

Junior welterweight prospect Bryce Mills (14-1, 5 KOs), who hails from nearby Liverpool, New York, will square off against Gerffred Ngayot (6-1, 5 KOs) in a six-rounder.

Kholmatov vs Ford UK Time, TV Channel, Ring Walks

Kholmatov vs Ford TV Channel: ESPN (US), Sky Sports (UK)

Kholmatov vs Ford Undercard US Time: 5 pm ET

Kholmatov vs Ford Main Card UK Time: 1 am (UK)

Kholmatov vs Ford Ring Walks: 4 am UK time (11 pm BST)

By Darshan Desai