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Nico Ali Walsh on the mic


Kholmatov-Ford, Lopez-Abe featherweight world title doubleheader set for Saturday

 Uzbek phenom Otabek Kholmatov (12-0, 11 KOs) will lock horns against American standout Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs) for the vacant WBA featherweight world title this Saturday, March 2 at Turning Stone Resort Casino.

This battle of unbeaten southpaws will see the WBA’s No.1 and No. 2 contenders compete in their first world title bouts.

In the co-feature, Luis Alberto “El Venado” Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) defends his IBF featherweight crown against Japanese contender Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs).

Kholmatov-Ford & Lopez-Abe headline a loaded bill streaming live and exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+ beginning at 5:20 p.m. ET/2:20 p.m. PT. The co-feature is scheduled to begin at approximately 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
The ESPN+-streamed action includes welterweight standout Brian Norman Jr. (25-0, 19 KOs), who takes on Janelson Bocachica (17-2-1, 11 KOs) in a 10-rounder, and the return of middleweight prospect Nico Ali Walsh (9-1, 5 KOs), who sees action in a six-rounder versus Charles Stanford (7-5, 4 KOs).

Promoted by Top Rank, tickets are on sale at the Turning Stone Resort Casino Box Office, charge by phone by calling 800.771.7711, or online at

At Thursday’s press conference, this is what the fighters had to say.

Otabek Kholmatov:

“It has been my dream to fight for a world title. I’ve been training my whole life for this. I’m ready.
“I love to fight. That’s all I have done in my life. So, I’m going to bring the fight on Saturday.
“I’m very well prepared. It’s been a great training camp. Great sparring. Great coaches. Everything went well, and we are prepared for the fight.
“Fighting for all the titles is a dream come true. Every fighter wants to become undisputed. That is the goal for me.”
Raymond Ford:
“This means the world to me. I’ve been fighting my whole life for this opportunity. It’s finally here, and I’m going to take full advantage of it.

“Shakur Stevenson is like a big brother to me. I’ve been sparring with him since I was in the amateurs. It’s really no different. Just now it’s more intense. It’s great always going to Houston. I get away from home and distractions. I can fully lock in, and that’s been the difference from my past few camps.
“I’m willing to stay for one more fight at 126 if it’s to defend against a champion or a big money fight. If it makes sense, I’m definitely here for it. But it has to be right away. If not, I’m moving up to 130.”
Luis Alberto Lopez:
“I’m anxious to step into the ring and anxious deliver a great fight to the people.

“We know he’s a fighter who likes to move a lot. He likes to be on his toes and moving backward. But if he wants to be the new champion, he’s going to have to come here and fight. We will do everything possible to win early.

“I’ve been looking for a unification fight for quite some time. When Mauricio Lara was a champion, I wanted to unify with him. When Robeisy Ramirez was a champion, I wanted to fight him. I’ve been asking for it.

“The faster a unification fight happens, the better for me. It would be great for my career.”

Reiya Abe:

“I think Lopez is a good champion. But this will be the day that I show that I’m the best at 126 pounds.

“The level of boxing in Japan has been improving, and I’m pleased to have been recognized there. The pressure has increased, but I consider it to be necessary to become stronger.”
“I believe that bringing back a victory is the best way to give back to everyone who has supported me.”
Nico Ali Walsh:
“I’m back in the U.S. I’m back on home turf. I’ve made a lot of improvements in my last fight that a lot of people haven’t seen. So, you’re going to see a bigger jump in improvement. I’m really excited to show it.”
Brian Norman Jr:
“I’ve been in the same since I was seven This is all I know. All I know is to throw hands. I won a WBO International belt, but it don’t mean nothing to me until I win a main belt. It was just one step to get to the big goal, which is to be undisputed in the welterweight division.”

Bryce Mills:

“It’s always exciting to fight here and be able to have family and friends come out and watch me. There’s no better place to fight than in your backyard. So, it’s very exciting, and I feed off that energy.”

Saturday, March 2

FIRST BELL: ESPN+ (5:20 p.m. ET/2:20 p.m. PT) 
Otabek Kholmatov vs. Raymond Ford, 12 rounds, Vacant WBA Featherweight World Title

Luis Alberto Lopez vs. Reiya Abe 12 rounds, Lopez’s IBF Featherweight World Title

Brian Norman Jr. vs. Janelson Bocachica, 10 rounds, WBO International Welterweight Title

Bryce Mills vs. Gerffred Ngayot, 6 rounds, junior welterweight

Troy Isley vs. Marcos Hernandez, 8 rounds, middleweight

Rohan Polanco vs. Tarik Zaina, 8 rounds, junior welterweight

Floyd Diaz vs. Edwin Rodriguez, 8 rounds, bantamweight

Nico Ali Walsh vs. Charles Stanford, 6 rounds, middleweight

Brandon Moore vs. Helaman Olguin, 8 rounds, heavyweight

Credit: Top Rank Boxing 

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