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Otabek Kholmatov vs Raymond Ford and Luis Alberto Lopez vs Reiya Abe set for March 2nd

Otabek Kholmatov and Raymond Ford fight for the vacant WBA featherweight belt, while Luis Alberto Lopez makes his third title defense

Patrick Stumberg is a freelance writer for SB Nation, first joining the network in 2011 before linking up with Bad Left Hook in 2015.

Fresh off of producing one of the best fights of 2023, the featherweight division is set to offer another night of quality action when a March 2nd ESPN+ doubleheader sees Otabek Kholmatov battle Raymond Ford for vacant WBA gold and Luis Alberto Lopez defend his IBF title against Reiya Abe.

The familiar halls of Verona, NY’s Turning Stone Resort Casino play host.

Top Rank pulled a slight coup last month by both signing Kholmatov (12-0, 11 KO) and outbidding Matchroom for the right to stage the Ford fight (14-0-1, 7 KO), which came about when Leigh Wood elected to move to 130 following his come-from-behind knockout of Josh Warrington. It’s a damn good matchup, pitting one of Uzbekistan’s hidden gems against a top prospect who’s been in terrific form since a well-aged draw with Edward Vazquez.

“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 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 KO) had been targeting a unification with Robeisy Ramirez, but since that’s currently off the table for obvious reasons, he’ll instead take on mandatory challenger Abe (25-3-1, 10 KO). Lopez is coming off a competitive decision over Joet Gonzalez in September, Abe a one-sided victory over Kiko Martinez in their May eliminator.

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 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.”

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