“I’m the true definition of a prizefighter. This is what I do to feed my family. This is what I do to pay my bills.”
So says Ryan Ford during a break in training at Grant Brothers Boxing Gym. He’s getting set for his fourth fight of 2017, going down tomorrow night at the Tohu Theatre, and Ford is relieved it’s actually happening. Just a few weeks ago the former MMA fighter who is now 12-0 as a pro boxer, was left high and dry after a proposed bout with Anthony Yarde for the vacant WBO Inter-Continental title fell through. The match had been announced and was considered a potential break-through opportunity for Ford, but a deal just couldn’t be finalized.
“It is what it is,” says Ford. “Everything happens for a reason. Now I’m here and I’ll be fighting in Montreal for the first time. Been a long time coming. I can’t wait to get in there and show the fans here what I can do.”
As Ford says, fighting is his full-time occupation, so with that in mind it shouldn’t necessarily come as a surprise to know that previous to the announcement of the Anthony Yarde bout, Ford had actually agreed to take a bare-knuckle fight, a match which he walked away from (with the approval of the organizers, it should be noted) when the chance to face Yarde materialized. But, after an agreement couldn’t be hammered out, Ford found himself in a difficult situation.
“I was here training and didn’t know what was going to happen. I just knew I needed a fight and I needed it soon.”
So, one thing led to another and now an already solid boxing card featuring such talents as Erik Bazinyan and Golden Garcia has an added attraction, the tough customer from Edmonton who once passed a pre-fight physical with a broken arm and who calls himself “The Real Deal.” If he gets the win on Saturday, that makes it four victories in 2017 and a hungry fighter looking for something truly big in 2018. And, who knows, maybe an ongoing partnership with Rixa Promotions.
“Montreal is my second home and the Grant Brothers gym is my training headquarters, so who knows, it could be a good fit. No matter what, I’m grateful to Rixa for putting a match together for me at the last minute. It’s been a long time coming for me to fight in Montreal and hopefully this is the first of many here.”
It’s no secret that Ford, at the age of 35 and with two young kids to help raise, is looking for big matches and big cheques to come his way in the very near future and so of course he took more than a mild interest in the huge payday that came to another MMA fighter-turned-boxer in the big Mayweather vs McGregor event last month. As someone who has competed in both the octagon and the ring, what did he think of the whole “MayMac” spectacle?
“I knew exactly what was going to happen with that fight,” says Ford with a shake of the head. “I knew McGregor didn’t have a chance. People need to understand: boxing and MMA are two totally different sports. I was in MMA for 11 years and now I’ve been boxing full-time for going on three years, and let me tell you, they are totally different.
“Would anyone expect a championship badminton player to go in and kick ass at Wimbledon? Seriously, that’s how different the two sports are. People are saying now, ‘He hit Mayweather more than Pacquiao or Canelo did!’ Well, yeah, but that’s because Floyd didn’t care. He had absolutely no worries at all so he let McGregor get away with stuff. He never would have fought Pacquiao or Canelo the same way because if he did, he might have paid for it. He knew exactly what to expect from McGregor and he knew exactly what he was doing.
“But, hey, give McGregor credit. He made himself a huge attraction and collected a massive payday and in the end, that’s what this is all about. At the end of the day, this is about business. Making money. And say what you like about Conor McGregor’s boxing skills, he made more money in one fight than almost any other boxer ever in the history of the sport. And he had never fought in a professional boxing ring before. That’s pretty amazing.”
In fact, one might say that Mystic Mac’s gift of the gab and talent for self-promotion is the real reason Mayweather vs McGregor was as huge as it was. It’s a lesson not lost on Ford who goes out of his way to promote himself as much as he can on social media.
“Too many fighters don’t understand that this is a business and you have to sell yourself,” says Ford. “You can’t leave it up to other people and you can’t just sit back and fight. You have to get out there and talk and make some noise because, as I like to say, closed mouths don’t get fed. Think of guys like Muhammad Ali; they made noise and that’s how they sold tickets. I think of a guy like Rory McDonald, friend of mine, terrific MMA fighter who I trained with. He could’ve gotten to the UFC long before he did, but he didn’t talk, didn’t draw any attention to himself. It’s just the reality of the business: if you’re a fighter you need to sell yourself.”
So here’s your chance, Ryan Ford. Let’s make some noise. After Saturday night, who do you want to fight next? We’ve got more than a few tough light heavyweights in Montreal. Who’s on your radar?
“I’ll fight anybody,” says Ford with a smile. “Like I say, I’m a prizefighter and I’m ready to go anytime. If someone gets hurt in training the week before a match, I’m the guy to call. I’ll take the fight, no problem. I’m always in top shape and my trainer Jessy-Ross Thompson is making sure I’m sharp. And I’m putting in the rounds with Erik Bazinyan; we’re locking up in sparring here and really going to war, which is what I need if I’m going to take it to the next level.
“But I don’t like what Adonis Stevenson has been doing. He’s just sitting back and picking opponents he knows can’t threaten him. It’s like he doesn’t really want to compete. So, hey, if Stevenson won’t fight Eleider Alvarez, I will. Let’s do it.
“I think Jean Pascal‘s got a big mouth and I’d love to fight him. A while back I was in the club and David Loiseau introduced me to Pascal and he gave me the brush off. I was like, ‘What a clown.’ I don’t respect that. You get some success, make some money, and then you treat people like that? Guess you forget where you came from. When I get the big fights and the big money, it’s not gonna change me. I will never treat people that way. I know it would be a great rumble and I heard Pascal’s looking for a fight, so let’s do this. I’m ready to kick Pascal’s ass anytime. Bottom line: this is my job. This is what I do. I’m a fighter. So if they call me, I’ll answer.”
And with that, the interview is over and it’s time for Ford to put in a few last rounds on the pads with Coach Thompson before calling it a day. So, you heard the man. If you want to see “The Real Deal” in action, just come to the Tohu Theatre tomorrow night. And all you Montreal light heavyweights? You’ve just been put on notice.
— Michael Carbert