Final score: how Nick Ball became WBA world king

By Eric Armit

In what was widely declared the best fight of the night in Riyadh. Nick Ball scored a narrow split decision over Raymond Ford to win the WBA featherweight title.

Just three months after suffering world title heartbreak when his WBC crack at Rey Vargas was scored a draw, the Liverpudlian roared back through a bloody nose to defeat a superb champion who made it a memorable clash. Here’s how it went down, session by session.

Round 1

Ball was giving away 5″ in height, and Ford had a big edge in reach. Ball likes to be known as “mini Tyson” and quickly threw himself forward, trying to cut off the ring. He was able to push southpaw Ford to the ropes and get through with a couple of body punches. Ford landed a couple of shots with his left, but Ball quickly had him against the ropes, scoring with hooks and drilling Ford with a right to the body.

Score: 10-9 Ball

Round 2

Ball hustled Ford to the ropes and banged home hooks and uppercuts. They traded punches, with both on target but Ball landing more. Ball was firing bursts of punches, and at the end of the round, Ford was pinned against the ropes and threw a series of hooks.

Score: 10-9 Ball (20-18)

Round 3

Ford was skillfully boxing, dancing away from Ball’s lunges, countering him on the way in while tying him up inside. Ball forced Ford back with a series of punches, but Ford banged back with some quick hits to the head and body. Ford was showing a cut under his right eye.

Score: 10-9 Ford (Ball 29-28)

Round 4

Ball scored with a couple of rights and Ford replied with a left to the body. Ball chased Ford to the ropes and fired punches off, landing a hard left hook. He continued to let his hands go and again connected with a left hook. Ford was jabbing well but twice Ball was able to rush him to the ropes. Ford was landing some accurate shots but being outworked. Would Ford be able to stick the pace like he did when winning the title against Kholmatov (image below)?

Score: 10-9 Ball (Ball 39-37)

March 2, 2024; Verona, NY; Otabek Kholmatov and Ray Ford during their WBA world featherweight championship fight at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, NY on Saturday, March 2, 2024. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Round 5

Ford was trying to stay in the centre of the ring and fired off quick jabs and straight lefts but Ball’s swarming attacks had him against the ropes and under fire. Ford was too busy defending against the storm of punches from Ball to effectively counter. They traded punches at the end of the round with Ball again out landing Ford.

Score: 10-9 Ball (Ball 49-46)

Round 6

The entertainment level was high as they traded shots at the start of the round. Ball forced Ford to the ropes and bombarded him with punches.

Score: 10-9 Ball (Ball 59-55)

Round 7

Ford stood off, piercing Ball’s guard with jabs and straight lefts. Ford pierced Ball’s guard with jabs and lefts and then uppercuts and Ball was bleeding heavily from the nose. Ford took over the round, forcing Ball back and banging home punches.

Score: 10-9 Ford (Ball 68-65)

Round 8

Ford slotted jabs through Ball’s defence and followed with straight lefts. He launched an attack, but Ford targeted Ball’s nose with success, and blood spilt from the nose. Ford danced away from Ball’s rushes and countered him on the way in. A frustrated Ball threw Ford to the floor.

Score: 10-9 Ford (Ball 77-75)

Round 9

Ball was starting to pay for the frantic pace he had set and must have been swallowing some blood. Ford was again piercing Ball’s guard with straight shots, but Ball had found his fire again and was driving forward, firing punches. Ford had a cut over his left eye and swelling there.

Score: 10-9 Ball (Ball 87-84)

Round 10

Ford was landing jabs and lefts and darting away from Ball’s attempts to counter. Ball was walking Ford down, but the gap between his rushing attacks was increasing and his punches were less snappy. Ford was spearing Ball with punches and either sliding away from Ball’s punches or tying him up inside.

Score: 10-9 Ford (Ball 96-94)

Round 11

Ball attacked hard at the start of the round. Ford kept snapping out his jab and rights. Ball was bleeding from the nose again. His mouth was gaping open and he was wild with his punches as Ford picked him off.

Score: 10-9 Ford (Ball 105-104)

Round 12

Ford was firing jabs and stepping back to avoid Ball’s charges. When Ball did force Ford to the ropes a right to the head made Ball step back. Ball landed a nice combination and just kept throwing punches with Ford throwing less but with more accuracy. Ball threw himself on Ford, just pumping out punches. Then Ford made some punching space and was landing straight punches on the wild Ball, but for me, Ball took the last round of a classic clash of styles.

Score: 10-9 Ball (Ball 115-113)

Official Scorers: Judge Pawel Kardyni 115-113 (Ball), Judge Jean Robert Laine 115-113 (Ball), Judge Kim Byung-Mu 115-113 (Ford).

Verdict: Ball is a champion less than three months after appearing to have been very unlucky, only drawing with WBC champion Rey Vargas in a challenge for the WBC belt. His relentless aggression, high work rate and sheer determination won him the title. Ford, 25, was making the first defence of the title, and with the scores so close, he thought he was the winner. He has the skill to work his way to another title fight and to win a title.

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