Top Rank has added to its growing featherweight portfolio.
BoxingScene.com has confirmed that the Las Vegas-based promotional company won the rights to the Otabek Kholmatov-Raymond Ford vacant WBA featherweight title fight. Top Rank submitted a $317,500 offer to outbid Matchroom Boxing ($255,555.55), Ford’s promoter, during a purse bid held Monday from WBA’s U.S. headquarters in Houston, Texas.
Kholmatov and Ford are each guaranteed $158,750—a 50/50 split—from the purse bid amount as the two highest ranked contenders.
As is standard protocol for all WBA bids, promoters are required to provide three potential dates. Top Rank has set aside: February 16 at an undisclosed U.S. location; February 17 on the Tyson Fury-Oleksandr Usyk undisputed heavyweight championship undercard in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and March 2 at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York.
The winner of their eventual bout will fill the void left behind recent two-time title claimant Leigh Wood.
Uzbekistan’s Kholmatov (11-0, 10KOs) has been out since a fifth-round knockout of unbeaten Thomas Patrick Ward in their title eliminator on March 4 in Newcastle, England. The bout was his first in nearly a year, when he soundly outpointed undefeated Adranik Grigorjan last March 26 in Orlando, Florida.
Ford (14-0-1, 7KOs; 1NC) is on the verge of his first one-fight campaign as a pro. The 24-year-old southpaw from Camden, New Jersey has been out since an April 8 win over former titlist Jessie Magdaleno on April 8 in San Antonio Texas,
Prior to and after the win over Magdaleno, Ford called for a showdown versus Kholmatov, regardless of the stakes. Kholmatov was previously ordered to next face Wood, who was instead permitted to enter a voluntary title defense versus former two-time featherweight Josh Warrington. Wood scored a dramatic, 9th round knockout to retain the WBA featherweight title but subsequently vacated to campaign at junior lightweight.
Top Rank signed Uzbekistan’s Kholmatov (11-0, 10KOs) to a promotional contract prior to the purse bid hearing, in a development first reported by Big Fight Weekend’s Dan Rafael.
Both moves—the signing and securing the fight—make sense, given Top Rank’s stock in the featherweight division. The company also currently promotes WBO titlist Robeisy Ramirez (13-1, 8KOs) and IBF title claimant Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16KOs).
Ramirez—a double-Olympic Gold medalist from Cuba who now lives in Florida—is due to next face Rafael Espinoza (21-0, 18KOs) on December 9 in Pembroke Pines, Florida.
Mexicali’s Lopez is awaiting a 2024 first quarter fight date for a mandatory title defense versus Japan’s Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10KOs).
Rey Vargas (36-1, 22KOs) holds the WBC title. The 33-year-old from Otumba, Mexico fights under the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC), as does interim titlist Brandon Figueroa. They continue to await a fight date for their title consolidation bout that has been stuck in limbo for several months.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. X (formerly Twitter): @JakeNDaBox