Raymond Ford vs Otabek Kholmatov / Luis Alberto Lopez vs Reiya Abe Fight Report by Patscorpio

My first fight card of the year. I drove four plus hours from my home in Massachusetts to Turning Stone Resort Casino in upstate NY to watch what I felt was a slept-on card:  A Featherweight doubleheader:  Luis Alberto Lopez defends his IBF Bantamweight Title against Reiya Abe and Raymond Ford battle for the vacant WBA Bantamweight Title. If there was one thing that I disagreed with is the fact it was only airing on ESPN+. This card definitely deserved a more widespread audience. Especially with how this card eventually played out. Oh, there was one minor disappointing thing related to my drive to Turning Stone. I like to make a rest area stop in Pattersonville, NY to indulge in some Roy Rogers. However, upon nearing the rest area where it was located, I saw that the whole rest area was going under renovation. The horror!!! Let me not digress from talking about this great offering from Top Rank.

The preliminary action was particularly good and entertaining. One thing I want to specifically mention is I got to meet the legendary Flavor Flav from Public Enemy. That was a huge highlight as I am a fan of the group. Flav was in the house to catch his godson fight. His godson is none other than Nico Ali Walsh, grandson of “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali. Still grinding after being a couple fights removed from his first career loss, he took on Charles Stanford. Stanford would put on a very spirited performance against Nico, who still gets hit a little too much. The judges, however, thought Nico won that comfortably with a fairly wide UD. I did not agree with that one. Rohan Polanco impressed and showed why he is one of Top Rank’s brightest prospects winning a UD over fellow undefeated prospect Tarik Zaina. It was a good back and forth scrap punctuated by Polanco scoring two brutal knockdowns in the last couple rounds of the fight. Floyd Cashflow Diaz also had a very unexpected ebb and flow performance against Edwin Rodriguez. Diaz is a very physically talented fighter, but it looked like his man strength has not come in yet. The punches he was throwing did little to dissuade Rodriguez from moving forward. Wicked shots they threw at each other over the course of eight rounds. Diaz would win a hard-fought decision but the judge that scored the bout 80-72 should be suspended in my humble opinion.

Troy Isley, once seemingly on the outs with Top Rank, put on a career best performance by stopping notable tough guy Marcos Hernandez in seven rounds. Hernandez just could not keep up with the work rate or combination punching from Isley. It was very impressive. Rooting for Isley to keep proving everyone wrong. Local favorite Bryce Mills received quite a surprising reaction from the Verona crowd. He is really loved there. He won an all-out slugfest against Gerffred Ngayot. I am talking about little defense involved. Again, this was a card read with a score not based on reality. Enough to visibly anger Ngayot who was kind of pacing around the ring in disbelief. The last preliminary fight was between highly touted prospects in Brian Norman and Janelson Bocachica. Norman, since signing to Top Rank, has been underwhelming in his performances. This would not be any different. Bocachica dropped Norman hard with a counter in the opening round. Next round, a clash of heads opens a head cut on Bocachica. The ring doctor took a long time to inspect it. After another round of action, he would stop it. Unfortunately, due to the fight not going into round four, the fight was declared a no contest. I had Bocachica winning the fight and he was not happy about having it stopped. I do not blame him because he was robbed of possibly scoring an upset over the undefeated Norman. Norman acknowledged that he fought poorly and vowed to be better next time

Now it is time for the main event fights of the evening. The co-main has IBF Featherweight Champion, Luis Alberto Lopez, making a defense against mandatory challenger Reiya Abe. Lopez has been on a twelve fight win streak since his last loss to Ruben Villa. A streak that saw him scoring punishing wins over notable fighters such as Andy Vences, Gabriel Flores, Josh Warrington (which netted him the title), Michael Conlan, & Joet Gonzalez. Abe was coming off his career best win against former two division champion Kiko Martinez. I thought this fight would be competitive. Instead, Lopez and his unorthodox style co. ed with power showed he was on another level. Within the first three rounds, Lopez managed to nearly shut Abe’s eye with some brutal power shots. Abe had no choice but to get on his bike and then later stand his ground and fight. The ring doctor between every round had to take several prolonged looks at the eye. But the punishment from Lopez continued. A brutal combination in round eight forced the ref to step in and stop the fight. Abe was game but Lopez simply outgunned. A damned good win.

The main event was for the vacant WBA Featherweight Title. Top contenders Otabek Kholmatov and Raymond Ford had the privilege of fighting for it. Ford got quite the crowd reaction like he was the hometown fighter. Having watched Ford before on Matchroom cards, I was expecting this fight to have a boxer vs puncher type of dynamic. Kholmatov is a heavy-handed puncher with all but one of his eleven wins coming by knockout. Instead, it turned into a war of attrition from round one onwards. Kholmatov applied heavy front foot pressure, throwing shots at Ford. Ford is usually very defensive, but he occasionally uses his legs while throwing big shots back in return. Ford’s face showed the results of Kholmatov’s early assault along with an inadvertent headbutt. I am thinking Ford needs to get some punching respect soon because Kholmatov did not seem affected by the shots. Round after round of punishment until Ford finally broke through near the end of the 10th round and badly hurt Kholmatov. Now starting to wane from the punishment from the bout, Kholmatov did nothing but stand toe to toe trying to put Ford down. From my seat in the media section, the sweat coming off both fighters as they were getting hit was reaching me. That was the only unpleasant part of watching this war. Going into the 12th round, the sense was Ford needed to drop Kholmatov in order to have a chance at a win on the cards. That KD occurred but the referee ruled that a slip. This would work in Ford’s favor. Kholmatov, now in trouble, was taking a beating from a Ford whose corner urged him to close the show. Closed the show he did, courtesy of a hook that had Kholmatov turning away and running into a corner almost face first. Ford followed a barrage of punches that forced the ref to stop the fight with 8 seconds left in the round. What an astonishing end to what is unquestionably the new Fight of The Year contender for 2024. Raymond Ford, the first fighter that Eddie Hearn signed from the jump and developed in America, to become a world champion. Ford collapsed in tears from sheer emotion as his corner and family entered to celebrate. The whole media section jumped up cheering and applauding while the whole arena went crazy over what they saw. It was by far one of the greatest fights that I have ever had the privilege of seeing live. Salute to Top Rank, ESPN, Turning Stone Resort Casino. I managed to interview the WBA Featherweight Champion of the World in his dressing room afterwards, who told me he would stick around for one more fight at 126 before moving up. Whatever he plans to do, I am sure it will be exciting. See you at my next live boxing adventure!!!

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