Five of boxing’s worst kept secrets were finally revealed on Monday as the match-ups for the Queensberry vs. Matchroom ‘5 vs. 5’ show were officially announced. 

Of all of the fights taking place in Saudi Arabia on June 1, none will divide opinion more than the featherweight contest between Matchroom’s WBA 126lbs champion, Ray Ford, 15-0-1 (8 KOs), and Queensberry favourite, Nick Ball, 19-0-1 (11 KOs).

The promotional battle and team aspect of the whole event gives fans an extra reason to get invested in the show but boxing is an individual sport and the best way the fighters can help their team win is by selfishly concentrating solely on themselves. 

Once the final interview is done and the final pre-fight promo is filmed, the teammates are unlikely to lay eyes on each other until their flights touch down in Saudi Arabia at the end of May.

Some of boxing’s biggest stars clearly enjoyed the show business element of Monday’s grand unveiling but for no-nonsense Liverpudlian Nick Ball, the whole day was little more than a business trip.

The aggressive Ball was forced to settle for a disputed split draw after his attempt to rip the WBC featherweight title away from Rey Vargas last month and the 27-year-old knows that his WBA title fight with Ford is a pivotal moment in his career. After a full day of media work with his new team, Ball took himself out on a late, lonely run around the streets of London.

“Anything I’m involved in I want to win. I always want to win and I feel like I’m on the winning team. It’s massive isn’t it? The whole world’s watching so it’s boss to be a part of but you can’t let that take your focus away from the main thing, which is the fight,” Ball told Queensberry. “All this is good but I’m fully focused on the fight and making sure I actually do win the fight – which I know I’m going to win – so I’m just focused on myself and putting the training in day in, day out and working hard.”

Just a week before Ball’s draw with Vargas – which took place on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s demolition of Francis Ngannou – Ford won his own world title with a thrilling, late stoppage of Otobek Kholmatov. The New Jersey native was trailing on the scorecards when he finally broke down the previously unbeaten Uzbek with just seven seconds of the fight remaining. 

The tall, experienced Vargas posed a unique set of problems but the compact Ball has spent his entire career fighting people of Ford’s stature and spends his days training alongside quality southpaw, Peter McGrail, and nasty switch-hitter, Andrew Cain. This is a case of business as usual for Ball who also knows exactly what to expect from the whole Saudi Arabian experience. 

“I’ll prepare the same as I’ve always prepared. Nothing changes just because it’s a different opponent or whatever you want to call it. Just focus on being the best version of myself, working hard in the gym and continuing to do what got me here,” he said.

“I watched the highlights of it [Ford’s victory over Kholmatov], well, the first five rounds. [It was a] good fight and he turned it around, didn’t he? He got the job done and now he’s world champion.”

Recently, Matchroom boss, Eddie Hearn, named Ball as the Queensberry fighter he would most like to promote. If Ball was flattered by the compliment, he did a good job of hiding it.

“It’s good. I feel like my style is proper fan-friendly and I’m always going to come and bring the action and bring the fight so watching me you’re going to be you’re going to be in for a treat. It’s not going to be boring.”

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