Otabek Kholmatov will fight Raymond Ford on Saturday, March 2 at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York, and on ESPN.
In the main event in upstate NY, Uzbek phenom Kholmatov (pictured above) meets Ford for the vacant WBA featherweight world title.
The southpaws will see Luis Alberto “El Venado” Lopez defend his IBF crown against Japanese contender Reiya Abe in the co feature.
Kholmatov-Ford & Lopez-Abe tops a card streaming live and exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+.
“Kholmatov and Ford are deserving challengers for the WBA world title. That is a true 50/50 fight,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum in a release. “Lopez believes he is the top featherweight in the world, and I know he’ll want to make a huge statement against a tough out in Abe. The fans at Turning Stone Resort Casino will be in for a real treat.”
Kholmatov (11-0, 10 KOs) gained a solid win vs Armenian Andranik Grigorian in March 2022, UD12.
In his last outing, Kholmatov downed British contender Thomas Patrick Ward; he dropped Ward three times, and the plug got pulled in round five.
“This is the opportunity I have been waiting for, and I will be ready,” Kholmatov said. “I have no doubt. On March 2, I will become the new WBA featherweight champion of the world.”
Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs) is two-time national Golden Gloves champion and he turned pro in March 2019. He has wins over Edward Vazquez and Richard Medina, as well as a triumph over ex world champion Jessie Magdaleno.
Ford said, “I've been waiting so long for this fight, and I'm already tired of talking about it. I've worked my whole life to put myself in position for this opportunity, and I will be leaving that ring on March 2 as a world champion.”
Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) is from Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico. He won the IBF strap by beating Josh Warrington in his hometown of Leeds, England, last December.
In May, the 30-year-old hit Belfast and beat hometowner Michael Conlan via fifth-round TKO. Lopez defended his title versus Joet Gonzalez, winning a UD12 last time out.
Lopez said, “My team and I are focused on Reiya Abe. I’m going to make my third title defense on March 2, and we’ll be focused on obtaining the victory and making a statement in order to get a unification fight against whomever is available.”
Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs) is the IBF No. 1 featherweight contender. He is coming off a points victory versus former two-division world champion Kiko Martinez.
Abe said, “I am traveling a long way to fulfill my dream of becoming champion of the world. Lopez is a tough opponent, and I will give it my all to bring a world title home to Japan.”