By Fraser Cox
It was fantastic spending time recently with the hungry hot prospect, Raymond ‘Savage’ Ford. Hailing from Camden, New Jersey, he made his professional debut just over a year ago, aged 19, with a win over fellow American, Weusi Johnson. Ford boasts a flawless undefeated record of 5(2)-0 and his return to the squared circle is imminent. As an integral part of Eddie Hearn’s U.S. Matchroom show on 15th August, Ford is looking to shake off the ring rust and come away with a spectacular victory.
Ford ended 2019 with a literal festive flurry, impressively dispatching opponent, Francisco Muro, in a mere one minute, forty-one seconds.
“I actually got to the arena late. Somebody told me I was supposed to be there later than I was meant to be. When I got there, it was quite rushed and I wasn’t ready, so they made my fight a ‘swing bout’ and told me that I would probably be before the co-main event. In the end, I had time to relax and prepare myself.
It ended quicker than I anticipated. I really expected to break him down a bit, touch his body a lot and use all the things that I worked on in camp.
It was perfect for me fighting so close to Christmas. I had my outfit and ring walk set up – everything was planned out”.
Although ‘lockdown’ was a rather challenging time for Ford, it proved to be a blessing in disguise, enabling his body to make a full recovery from outstanding injuries.
“It was hard, even now it’s still a little different. I have to go to the gym at certain times, finish my training earlier and I can’t train as many times as I want. However, my body needed the rest because I was injured, and, as a result, I wouldn’t have been 100% ready for my proposed fight in April. Now, I feel great, so I think everything really worked out. The lockdown has been tough mentally because, in the amateurs, I was used to fighting roughly six times every two months; but I’m a fighter, so regardless of anything when I get in the ring, I’m going to do what I got to do to get the win”.
Ford believes that he will thrive under the current restrictions of boxing behind closed doors: he is a young fighter who is still very much learning his craft. With fight night a matter of days away, Ford details the adjustments that he has had to make during his preparations and also considers how the remainder of the year could unfold.
“I feel like the only thing that’s going to bother me will be the 48-hour quarantine before the fight. I think the other changes, like no fans, won’t really make a difference. It’s just going to be like sparring and I think it will suit me. Being able to hear my coaches clearly in the corner will be very useful because I haven’t fought for a while and I’m still getting used to the pros.
To start with, I’m going to be smart, use my jab, see what he likes to throw and try to take away all the things that he does well. I’ll gradually break him down, touch his body, and eventually, I’ll stop him. I don’t take any opponent lightly; he’ll be dangerous and I’m not expecting it to be a walk in the park. The key will be to remain focused so that I will be able to do what I do.
It hasn’t been the full preparation that I’m used to. Before I was training three times a day and now it’s down to one or two. I’m still going to come into the fight in shape because I’ve been working hard and putting the rounds in during sparring.
I’m hoping to fight twice more before the end of the year – I think that’s realistic. I want to start fighting against higher calibre opponents. I actually want to fight Sean Garcia after this one, so that should be a good test”.
Reflecting on his life prior to boxing, Ford picks out a specific unsung hero who helped steer him away from the wrong path as a youngster. He also highlights the invaluable time spent with two former World Champions, against whom he was able to pitch his own level and pinpoint areas for improvement.
“I had my first fight when I was twelve, but I’ve been around boxing and doing training since I was 10. I had to make adjustments when making the transition from the amateur to professional ranks. You have to watch out for headbutts, be defensively smarter and try to use your boxing IQ more. The main parts were learning how to sit down on my punches, placing them well, and knowing when to throw.
When I was younger, I never thought of being a boxer. It wasn’t until a Puerto Rican kid on my block, who was a little older than me, introduced me to boxing. He used to take me on runs with him and he had a punch bag in his basement, so we would work out together. I was always the kid that used to fight all the other kids on the block. But, the Puerto Rican kid took me under his wing and kept me out of trouble.
I didn’t take boxing seriously until I was 18 and out of school. I didn’t want to go to college or get a job, so I put my full focus on boxing. I didn’t really have a long amateur career; I only had 55 amateur fights because I was so on and off with boxing. It was at 18 that I thought: I can make a career out of boxing.
I advise any aspiring amateur boxer about to turn pro, to get rid of their amateur habits, like throwing punches without setting them up; start sparring with professionals; and study how they fight and train.
I have gained a lot of confidence sparring with two world level fighters, Shakur Stevenson and Tevin Farmer. They were giving me great work, but I was also able to give them great work back. It has allowed me to gauge what level I’m at, and give me the belief that, when I’m in the position to compete for a world title, I’m going to be ready. I just need to gain a little more experience, and then I’m ready to take off”.
The most pivotal point in Ford’s career to date came shortly after his marvellous triumph at the U.S. National Golden Gloves. He was contacted by Eddie Hearn, asking him to sign with Matchroom – undoubtedly a life-changing offer for Ford.
“After the National Golden Gloves, Eddie followed me on Instagram, but I didn’t realise at the time, as I was getting a lot of followers at once. When I noticed that he followed me, I tagged his name in a post and he messaged me. We started talking and he was trying to sign me then and there, but I wanted to wait so that I could do the Olympics and trials.
Not long after winning the Golden Gloves, I had a concussion that set me down for the whole summer. During the summer I was thinking, I don’t want to be an amateur anymore; I’m getting concussions, injuries, and I’m not even getting paid for it. I could be a professional now, picking up the same injuries, but I would be getting paid at the same time.
After recovering from the concussion, I went to the U.S. Nationals but, in my head, I didn’t care much for it. I told my coaches, Reginal Lloyd & Rashiem Jefferson: if I don’t win this tournament, I’m turning professional – I was losing the love for amateur boxing. I won the first two fights and then lost against the number one dude in the weight class. I felt like I won it, but it was a good close fight. Now, when I look back, I’m not mad that he beat me, because it’s only going to make me better. After that tournament, I hit Eddie up and told him I was ready to turn pro.
I believe that Eddie and Matchroom can build my profile and fanbase overseas, and also give me the opportunity to fight globally. I feel like that’s important, especially for a young fighter like me. I really want to have a worldwide fanbase, because people in the U.S. barely show the love to us compared with other countries. When I came to the UK to fight in Nottingham, I met many friendly people. On fight night, they showed a lot of love, it was like I was from the UK. My dream is to fight at the 02 before I retire”.
The Featherweight division features an abundance of talented fighters, including multiple British champions and future prospects. Ford, who believes he can hang with anybody, is chomping at the bit for the opportunity to test himself against the biggest names. He offers his angle on the upcoming mega-fight between Léo Santa Cruz and Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis.
“I would say Gary Russell Jr. is the number one in the division right now. In terms of future prospects, Shakur Stevenson is definitely one of them, Stephen Fulton, little Rashiem Jefferson – that’s my brother and Christopher Colbert.
British-wise, I’d like to fight Lee Selby; he’s a good boxer. I’ve never seen Kid Galahad fight, but I’ve been hearing about him a lot. Josh Warrington too, I’ll fight him. I feel like all those guys would help me build my fanbase more.
I think it’s going to be a good fight and I think Tank should win. It’s all up to him, in terms of whether he comes into the fight in shape and is focused. If he performs as he did against Gamboa, I don’t think it’s going to go his way, because Santa Cruz is hungry, he throws a lot of punches and has the height and reach advantage. I feel like Tank is his worst enemy - he’s the only person that can mess up his career. But, he’s got great talent and is a very special fighter”.
As a student of boxing, Ford has had the luxury of drawing inspiration from a host of motivational figures thus far. There is one man who is very much ‘top dog’ in his eyes and, aside from boxing, Ford has been in awe of a truly unforgettable sporting legend.
“Floyd Mayweather is definitely number one for me. Also, Prince Naseem Hamed, Sugar Ray Leonard, Pernell Whitaker, and Andre Ward – I like his fundamentals a lot. Now I watch a lot of Canelo, Adrien Broner when he was at 135lbs, Shakur Stevenson and Terence Crawford.
Kobe Bryant is one of my biggest inspirations. He’s my all-time favourite basketball player. My brother and I argued about who was better between him and Lebron. It’s always been Kobe for me”.
And, on the subject of a man who will always be remembered, when asked how he would like to be remembered, Ford responded:
“I want to be remembered as a hard worker; someone who is caring and took care of his loved ones, and just as a guy who always kept it real”.