What started on Instagram has blossomed into a promotional deal for Raymond Ford with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing USA
You never know where you’ll make your career-changing connections. Just ask Raymond Ford.
Shortly after winning the 2018 National Golden Gloves in the 123-pound division, Ford looked through one of his Instagram stories to see who had viewed it. To his surprise, the profile for Eddie Hearn, the British promoter making waves in the U.S. with Matchroom Boxing and DAZN, had been one of those who had watched.
“I clicked on his page and it said follow back, so I knew he followed me. So I followed him and he DMed me and that’s how we started talking,” said Ford.
That talk led to a promotional deal, which begins this Friday when he makes his pro debut at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, Pa. Ford, a southpaw, will face David Michel Paz (4-6-1) in a four-round bout, trainer Rashiem Jefferson tells The Ring.
The arena is just across the Delaware River from Ford’s hometown of Camden, New Jersey, once known as a manufacturing hub, but has since become infamous as one of the most dangerous places in America to live.
“It’s a rough city, I grew up in a tough neighborhood fighting every day,” said the 19-year-old Ford. “I was just a small kid so I felt I had something to prove to all the bigger guys that tried to play the tough role.”
Ford recalls being expelled from a variety of schools and having to go to a private school “down the highway” as a result.
After one such expulsion, when Ford was ten, his mother had to leave work to come pick him up.
“We were in the car…she was crying. She asked me why I’m always fighting and I told her I just love to fight,” said Ford.
That’s when she brought him to a boxing gym. It was there he found a place to exercise, and to exorcise, to be praised for throwing the punches that had previously gotten him sent home and shunned.
“I never wanted to leave the gym. It was like my second home,” said Ford.
Ford estimates that from the age of twelve, he knew this would be his career. He would watch Floyd Mayweather Jr., his all-time favorite fighter, do his thing on HBO’s 24/7 series, but also appreciated the work of Sugar Ray Leonard and Roy Jones Jr., plus more contemporary fighters like Farmer, Gervonta Davis and Shakur Stevenson, the latter whom he has sparred with.
He didn’t realize just how good he was until, after a dozen amateur bouts, he made it to the National Silver Gloves finals, holding his own against other kids with 50 to 60 fights.
“When I was younger I was never focused, but I had all the skills in the world. I knew if I could put my skills together with hard work, that I could be as great as I want to be,” said Ford.
Among his other amateur laurels were a gold at the Ringside World Championships in 2017 and representing the U.S. overseas in Bulgaria. That would be the only trip he’d make abroad on the national team, though. He says he was suspended for arguing with the team’s head coach.
Ford had once used “2020” as a nickname, figuring that’d be his year to represent the Olympics, but after falling short in the USA Boxing National Championships finals in back to back years – on decisions to Marc Castro and Duke Ragan that he felt he won – he felt it was time to look for another path in his career. And that’s when he chose to Earn with Hearn.
Another few miles down the road, Ford trains in Cherry Hill, N.J. alongside a number of experienced pros, with the most accomplished being IBF lightweight titleholder Tevin Farmer, who defends his belt for the third time in Friday’s main event against Jono Carroll. Ford spars with Farmer, a man who personifies the slick lefty style the younger fighter has worked to cultivate.
“It’s a benefit to spar with a world champion…because he not only shared the ring with him and didn’t get embarrassed but he trains alongside him every day,” said Jefferson, who trains him with Reg Lloyd. “It’s just a…mental boost letting him know that he’s that good and a future world champion as well.”
Jefferson had a 15-1-1 (6 KOs) pro career over four years and is also an assistant to Farmer. He says Ford can be close to contender level within a year, and looks to Rau’shee Warren, a three-time Olympian, who brought the same style that made him one of America’s most consistent amateurs to the pros and won a world title.
“Speed kills, defense breaks you down. Ray has them both; why would he change his style to a stiff fighter?,” said Jefferson, who also lists Ford’s “ring IQ, ring generalship, mindset and his will to win” as his best strengths.
Before he boxed because he loved to fight. Now with greater appreciation for his talents, Ford has a new motivation for why he does what he does.
“I just want to be able to take care of my family and to live life with ease and no struggles,” said Ford.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and can be reached at [email protected].
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