If Ryan Ford didn’t already have a nickname, you might be tempted to give him one that reflects his willingness to venture far and wide, his life and career a journey that has taken him from Edmonton to Montreal to Thailand and to Singapore. But instead of “The Road Warrior” or “The Nomad,” Ford is known as “The Real Deal.” The handle is less a homage to Evander Holyfield than about how Ford turned his life around after a stint in prison some 15 years back. While on the inside he trained in the gym every chance he got, told anyone who’d listen he’d be a fighter when he got out. And like the real deal that he is, he proved true to his word, leaving the street life behind as he put together a 22-5 MMA record before switching to full-time boxing in 2015.
In 2016 he moved his wife and two children to Thailand in the hopes of becoming a star boxing attraction in Asia, but after two matches, both stoppage wins, he returned to Canada. But if things didn’t work out as Ford had hoped, that adventure has led to his newest opportunity. Tomorrow night he fights in the main event of a card billed as “The Roar In Singapore” and on the line is the UBO light heavyweight title.
“A certain guy made a lot of promises, said he’d get me fights in Asia, but it didn’t happen,” says Ford. “But all that has led to where I’m at now and this opportunity. And while I’m not looking past this match, there’s talk of another title fight after this one, so who knows, I might be back in Singapore again before too long.”
But while more fights in Asia are a possibility for Ford, more training in Montreal is now a certainty. This past fall he journeyed from Edmonton to work at the Grant Brothers Gym and things have developed so well that very soon he plans to bring his wife and two children to “La Belle Province.” As he told The Fight City, “This is where I need to be.”
“Montreal is the city for boxing,” says Ford. “And I couldn’t ask for better work than what I’m getting at Grant’s. I’m training with champions and Olympians, sparring with guys like Lucian Bute and Erik Bazinyan. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
But in addition to getting to work with some truly elite talent, Ford believes he’s also finally found the right coach in Jesse Ross Thompson who is one of the Grant’s lead trainers. Ford and Thompson have been working closely in preparation for “The Roar In Singapore,” and a solid fighter-coach bond has developed.
“You gotta find someone who clicks with you and ever since I met Jesse, I just knew the trust was there,” says Ford. “It’s so important because you have to believe in that person and believe he’s telling you the right things in the corner. Since we’ve been working together I really feel like I’m on another level. He’s sharpened up a lot of what I do and the result is I’ve never felt more confident. Back in Edmonton I never really had a dedicated trainer so this is why I came to Montreal. Now I get the work and the instruction that I need.”
As for Thompson, he has nothing but respect for both how Ford has progressed since coming to Montreal, and with his talent for taking on new challenges. “I admire his ability to adapt,” says Thompson. “He went from football to MMA and now boxing, which I think is very impressive. When I first saw him work in the gym, I thought it was going to be difficult to teach him things and make him box the way I want him to box, but I was wrong. He’s adapted very well, better than I expected.”
With Ford, Thompson has focused on the technical side of the game, teaching Ryan to be more calm and controlled and to sharpen his skills.
“Good head movement, keeping his hands together, staying low, balance,” says Thompson. “Just boxing in a more controlled, technical way. Before he was too aggressive, not thinking. You have to think in the ring and be able to adapt.”
“Every day in the gym he’s surprising me,” adds Thompson. “He holds his own now with a guy like Bute, an experienced pro and a world champion. He’s doing everything better now, has become a complete fighter.”
As for tomorrow night’s fight, both Ford and Thompson are extremely confident as they set to take on New Zealand’s Sam Rapira (15-3).
“I think this guy is perfect for us,” says Thompson. “He’s a patient boxer, good jab and right hand. Ryan will cut the ring off and go to the body. First few rounds might be tough, but then you put the pressure on him and break him down.”
“He’s going to be a tough competitor, for sure,” says Ford. “But I’m going to be his toughest opponent to date, no question. The bottom line is he’s not going to bring anything better to the ring than what I’ve already had to deal with here at the Grant’s.”
Shortly after speaking to The Fight City, both fighter and trainer packed up and headed for the airport to begin the trek to Singapore. And so tomorrow night it’s the next step in Ryan Ford’s long and winding road to ring success, to achieving his goal of becoming one of the top dogs in the fight game. The UBO light heavyweight championship might not represent the big-time, but it does represent accomplishment and, more importantly, it’s a title that will lead to new and bigger opportunities in the near future.
“I win this fight, get this title, and then it’s on to the next one,” says Ryan “The Real Deal” Ford. And on to wherever the journey takes him, near or far. But wherever he travels on his quest, Ford’s new home will soon be The Fight City. — Michael Carbert