World Featherweight Title Doubleheader: Otabek Kholmatov-Raymond Ford & Venado Lopez-Reiya Abe
Tickets on sale Thursday, December 21 at 10 a.m. ET via Ticketmaster.com
The featherweight division will take center 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-Ford & Lopez-Abe will headline a stacked card streaming live and exclusively in the U.S. on ESPN+.
Promoted by Top Rank, tickets go on sale Thursday, December 21 at 10 a.m. ET and can be purchased at the Turning Stone Resort Casino Box Office, charge by phone by calling 800.771.7711, or online at Ticketmaster.com.
“Kholmatov and Ford are deserving challengers for the WBA world title. That is a true 50/50 fight,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “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.”
Otabek Kholmatov vs Raymond Ford
Kholmatov (11-0, 10 KOs), a former international amateur champion, debuted as a pro in August 2021 and secured nine impressive victories before the year ended. The 25-year-old southpaw stepped up to face then-unbeaten Armenian Andranik Grigorian in March 2022, decisioning him after 12 dominant rounds. In his last fight, Kholmatov traveled 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.
“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) 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.
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.”
Venado Lopez vs Reiya Abe
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 traveled 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.
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), 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.
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.”
Article sponsored by HÖRFA