By Danni Levy
Photography by Simon Howard
There are many ways to scratch an itch. Throwing yourself up against the ropes in the 02 arena is one of them. Martyn Ford is ready to ‘shut people up’, and he’s not messing around.
April 2nd, it’s on. THE fight everyone is talking about. Martyn the man mountain Ford is set to fight the ‘Iranian Hulk’ Sajad Gharibi in a highly anticipated boxing match that’s gained exponential traction. How on earth did it all come about?
“I’ve lost about four stone in six months,” reveals Martyn as he settles down into our post-workout afternoon chin wag. Having witnessed Martyn perform his gruelling daily routine with ease, I’m kinda worried for any man tasked with facing him.
“God knows how, but this ‘Hulk’ guy has been popping up left, right, and center for two years,” he says, the aggravation apparent in his otherwise relaxed tone. “He’s not an athlete by any stretch of the imagination. I refused to be fooled by his propositions, so initially, I just ignored him, but then things started getting a bit heated. At that point, for me, it was like, ‘Well, I’m not a mug, are you going to speak about my kids like this? I’m fucking game for a scrap’. He’s jumped himself into a pool that is too deep for him and I’m ready to rip his head off.”
It’s not the nature of the fight, but the nature of the man that counts. And determined to prove himself to the world, Martyn is not taking preparations lightly.
“I’ve become obsessed with fitness,” he says. “Going back into fitness for me has been very good health-wise. Mentally, it’s allowing me to reach different avenues that I’d forgotten about, because I’d become too focused on the weight aspect and not so much on the conditioning. This fight will help me get myself back to where I was as a twenty-year-old athlete. That’s why it’s become such a passion. It’s also kind of nice to shut people up. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, you won’t be able to do that. You can’t do that’, or they pigeonhole you. It’s nice going through this transition and finally starting to turn people’s heads and gain recognition for being an athlete, rather than just a big guy.”
Martyn’s background in cricket has fueled the desire to rekindle his sporting notoriety.
“I was on 7,000- 8,000 calories a day. I brought them down to around 5,000 and then gradually cut back even further. I’m on around 4,500 now”
“I really wanted to tick the box of achieving something within some form of athleticism,” he says. “Playing sports at a very good level yet never achieving what I should have, stuck with me throughout my twenties. I didn’t think I’d ever get the opportunity to scratch that itch and say, ‘Okay, I’ve done it now’. For an athlete, to not have a platform to do that on is probably the hardest thing you can face.
“I had to turn down an MMA fight with KSW two years ago because I landed movie roles in The Fast and the Furious and The Never and I couldn’t risk injury. When I was forced to drop out, people accused me of putting on a publicity stunt, which drove me around the twist. But thankfully, this new opportunity has cropped up at just the right time.”
Martyn labels the Iranian Hulk as an ‘embarrassment’.
“It’s kind of an embarrassing fight in the sense that he’s not an athlete,” he says. “But I took the fight when things started getting heated over inbox messages. It’s 100% personal. There’s nothing fun about this. There’s no publicity stunt from my end. I genuinely want to smash his face in. I would happily do it in the gym behind closed doors. I do want to fight professionally in the future, but this fight for me is a walk in the park. It’s not a challenge for me by any stretch of the imagination.
“There’s nothing fun about this. There’s no publicity stunt from my end. I genuinely want to smash his face in. I would happily do it in the gym behind closed doors”
“If I really wanted to end it fast, I could knock him out in twenty seconds. But I think I’ll give him one round and twenty seconds.”
High-profile fights don’t just land on your lap every day, but for Martyn, the proposition was a no-brainer.
“I went to a Boxstar event in October last year, and I said to the promoters, ‘Look, I’ve got this dickhead who I’d love to scrap’. Let’s face it, ‘The Iranian Hulk’ as he likes to call himself, would never get this kind of exposure otherwise, so he owes that to me. He doesn’t respect boxing. He doesn’t respect MMA. So under normal circumstances, no one would want him to represent their brand. But I suggested it because he wanted it and we managed to sign it up.
“I was twenty-four stone at the time because I’d just finished a movie in Serbia and I had to be big for the role. I was heavy and I felt heavy. I was powerful. I looked intimidating, but the reality is, I couldn’t fight for shit then. So from that day on, I was in the gym every single day doing cardio. I made an immediate switch from weights to functional training. I got my fitness back fast. All of my workouts were cardio and machine-based to avoid injury.
“I was on 7,000- 8,000 calories a day. I brought them down to around 5,000 and then gradually cut back even further. I’m on around 4,500 now. I don’t need huge amounts of calories to train. I keep my carbs quite high, my proteins very minimal and I eat loads of vegetables. My health’s brilliant. Everything’s spot on.
“There was a certain preparation that I had to go through step-by-step. I dropped the weight in the first four-to-six weeks with food and cardio. Then I started to implement mobility and movement drills using kettlebells, ropes, bodyweight, and footwork. Finally, I started to get more into boxing. The process worked a treat.
“Fight training comes from the core and everything has to link together. I had to make that transition without losing too much strength, but at the same time avoiding putting too much pressure on the weaker parts of my body. Functional training has helped me to maintain a decent size.
“For me, the priority is performance and health, but I’m happy with how I look too. I train to suit a specific purpose or film role, not for aesthetics. I’m a massive advocate of being healthy in the mind before the body, because I think it’s so detrimental to pin everything on an external. As long as I’m healthy and fit, I’m not fazed about proportions. For me, that’s a bad place to be. I suffered from a breakdown when I was twenty over food and looks, so that’s something I always stay away from and I make sure my end goal is always about performance and health, rather than a physical look.”
“Throwing people around, pretending that you’re bloody John Cena from Iran, is kind of embarrassing. I don’t like it when people disrespect the sport of boxing. If you’re going to do it, fine, but make sure you’re training for it”
Martyn says he listens to his body rather than turning to his notebook when it comes to planning his sessions.
“I let my body tell me what it needs,” he says. “If I’m fresh, I’ll do more. If I’m feeling like I need to rest, I’ll take a rest. I’m doing a couple of key exercises, like the T-bar off a platform so as not to put too much stress on the lower back. Being my height, going from the floor is quite stressful on the joints. I also do single-arm rows and single-arm chest press. I do a lot of retraction work for my delts and my back, because obviously, boxing’s so forward moving. The front delts, parts of the chest and the triceps are very over-trained with boxing work, so it’s quite important to get a retraction too. I’m doing boxing training six days a week, and then a lot of traditional lifts to complete the package.
“I’ve been sparring and I feel strong, I feel confident, I feel good. I’ve got the jabs and the backhands nailed as well as a lot of people who’ve been boxing for years. My jabs are strong. I’ve got a hard, hard jab and I’ve got a fast jab too, depending on which I want to do. I am very comfortable with the jab and the backhand and I’m becoming very comfortable moving around a boxing ring in terms of footwork and speed. I’m starting to really understand the importance of rotation, which is an adaptation from my cricket days when I was bowling. That’s a learned motor skill from when I was younger. As an opening fast bowler, your footwork has to be impeccable. It’s all about balance and holding the body in the strongest position possible to get a fast movement from the arm, which is pretty much what boxing is too. You’ve got to be in a good position to throw a decent punch and you’ve got to throw it from the hips and not the shoulders. So it’s very relatable. My strengths are definitely going to be the straight strokes. I know my strengths and I know my weaknesses, and I’ll just keep working on the weaknesses to bring them up to scratch. But the reality is, when it comes to fight night, I’m going to stay where I’m strong and I’m confident in how much I can do. I’ll be a very difficult person to fight.”
Martyn insists nothing about the Hulk’s training regime brings fear to his camp.
“The Hulk’s training footage is kind of demoralizing in the sense that I don’t want to watch it and think I’m just wasting my time because I could beat him up now,” he says. “He’s in for an absolute world of shit. He really is. I would not want to be him.
“Throwing people around, pretending that you’re bloody John Cena from Iran, is kind of embarrassing. I don’t like it when people disrespect the sport of boxing. If you’re going to do it, fine, but make sure you’re training for it. Make sure you’re eating right. Make sure you’re doing everything to be the best athlete you can be and respect the sport. If you’re just trying to make a quick couple of quid, you’ve got to question the ethics of it.
“He’s doing it just to buy himself a new house, I’d say. Genuinely, hand on heart, I don’t think he understands what’s going to happen when he steps into that room. it’s genuinely a serious concern of mine that he’s going to get seriously hurt.”
“If I really wanted to end it fast, I could knock him out in twenty seconds. But I think I’ll give him one round and twenty seconds”
Outside of the ring, Martyn has huge plans for global domination on the big screen.
“I’ve got The Machine being released later this year, then I’ve got Sandman, a Netflix show being released this year too,” he reveals.
“These last two roles have been by far the biggest and best roles I’ve had,” says Martyn. “They’ve given me a chance to act. They’re not fight-based. It gives me a really nice collage of work to go forwards and really demand that lead acting role. There’s no denying I opened the doors into the film world by being huge and it gave me the opportunity, so I wouldn’t change that and I’m grateful. But now I’ve opened those doors and I’ve seen new opportunities, I’m turning the ‘monster’ roles down constantly because I don’t want to be seen as the big guy who just goes in and beats someone to death anymore.”
Business-wise, Martyn fancies turning his hand to the world of fitness centers.
“I’m really keen on opening functional gyms,” he says. “I travel the world and go to a lot of different venues, and the old school bodybuilding gyms are becoming a thing of the past. We’re seeing more cages and lifting platforms, kettlebells and band work. I think people have started to become more open-minded and in it for the long-term, rather than just short-term aesthetic reasons.”
Not one to turn a blind eye to a challenge, Martyn has his sights on center stage when it comes to selecting future opponents in the ring.
“I’d love to challenge The Rock to a fight,” he says. “We’d make a fortune. It would be a phenomenal fight, because he’s a great athlete. He’s very mobile, strong, and comes from a wrestling background.”
Dwayne, are you game?
Inspiring the youth through the sport of boxing is also something close to Martyn’s heart.
“Genuinely, hand on heart, I don’t think he understands what’s going to happen when he steps into that room. it’s genuinely a serious concern of mine that he’s going to get seriously hurt”
“The kids who attend these boxing and MMA events have so much hunger and ambition to be successful, but they don’t get the opportunity,” he says. “I really want to look at working to bring a little bit of hope to the lads who are lost in the street world and give them that through sport. There’s a movement called ‘Gloves Up Knives Down’, which aims to bring kids off the street into the boxing world. You look at these kids who are deemed criminals and they really haven’t been given a choice. And then you look at the politicians who are scamming us for billions, and it’s almost brushed under the carpet. Now, who are the real criminals?
“It’s a backward society we live in, and I think when you get the opportunity to have a voice that’s heard, you should use it to try and help those who are in a position you could easily have been in. Being able to use this platform to give something back is a big ambition of mine. It’s a great way to use energy.”
As the fight date looms, the rivalry is heating up between the two heavyweights. Get the exclusive from THE HULK “I PROMISE MARTYN FORD WILL BE TAKEN OUT ON A STRETCHER!”