The Rev. Greg Ford wants to inspire others to fight.
And he’s stepping into the boxing ring with a 6-foot-4, 240-pound pro boxer to exhibit his commitment to the message that “some things are worth fighting for,” said Ford, who grew up in Cuyahoga Falls and is currently lead pastor at One Church Columbus.
“Everybody’s in a fight, battling something — addictions, a marriage that’s falling apart, things from the past, bankruptcy, the loss of a job, doubts, illness or disease, personal temptations,” said Ford. “This boxing match is an opportunity to create a picture for people by getting their attention and challenging them to fight the fight that’s in front of them and to never give up.”
On Sunday, the 6-foot-1, 230-pound pastor will come face to face with Brian Brown, an Upper Arlington police officer and professional boxer. Brown, who has seven wins and one loss as an amateur boxer, will compete in his first pro match in March.
“The message [Ford] is trying to get across is sound. Everybody has some type of adversity that they’re trying to overcome. If this helps encourage people, I’m glad to be a part of it,” said Brown, who agreed to box Ford this week — after Jimmie Bell, a former Ohio State University football player who was part of the 1997 Rose Bowl champion team, had to back out because he has the flu.
The exhibition boxing match, billed as “The Fight,” is at 7 p.m. at New Albany High School, 7600 Fodor Road in New Albany.
“[Brown] is going to be a big challenge. He’s in excellent shape and he knows how to fight. He is big, fast, strong and experienced,” said Ford, 33. “Even though I’ve been training and grew up playing sports, this is the first time I’ve done an individual sport. So, there is a degree of anxiety but it’s forced me more than ever to rely on the Lord. All I can do is give my best and leave the results to God.”
Proceeds from The Fight will benefit Akron-based Emerge Counseling Services. The Christian counseling agency, located at 900 Mull Ave., provides outpatient mental health care for individuals, couples and families. The Rev. John Palmer, president and CEO at Emerge, said the funds will be used to provide counseling for people who need financial assistance.
“This is a very unique and powerful way to demonstrate that life is tough and that every day, we all wake up and face our own personal fights — aches and pains, relationship challenges, emotional struggles, financial struggles — but the good news is God gives us hope and healing,” Palmer said. “We’re just thrilled to be the benefactor because this will provide us with resources that we can use to do what God has called us to do — provide support and care to everyone who needs it.”
Palmer said he is thankful for the relationship that he has with Ford, which was developed primarily because of his roots in the Akron area.
Ford is the son of the Rev. Mark Ford, executive director of Love Akron. The younger Ford is a graduate of Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy and as a first-year student, attended Mount Union College, where he played football, basketball and baseball. Between his freshman and sophomore years in college, he felt a calling to the ministry and transferred to Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, Texas.
Ford earned an undergraduate degree in biblical studies at the SAGU, where he played football for three years. Before establishing One Church Columbus, Ford served as youth pastor at Calvary Assembly of God in Toledo and at Evangel Assembly of God in Wooster, where he also coached middle school football and basketball.
Brown, who was born in Toledo and raised in Fremont, graduated from Fremont Ross High School, where he participated on the football, wrestling and track teams. His left arm bears a tattoo — the image of a bulldog with the scripted word “Bulldog” — from his high school days of playing offensive and defensive lineman. The nickname came from a coach who called the line “bulldogs.”
From high school, Brown went to Ohio University, where he earned an undergraduate degree in sociology and criminology with a minor in psychology. He also played both defensive and offensive lineman on the football team. During his senior year at OU, he set a team record in the weight room by performing a 595-pound back squat.
Before joining the Upper Arlington police department more than four years ago, Brown worked with juvenile offenders at a detention center in Fremont and at a juvenile correctional facility.
About six years ago, Brown renewed his interest in boxing, something he had done as a youth, as a way to stay in shape. His workouts led to an amateur boxing career that turned professional late last year.
“As a professional fighter, I’m definitely going to bring the fight to him, as a way to promote boxing and the rich history it has here in Ohio,” Brown said. “We want to show people that boxing promotes good sportsmanship and good physical health. And I think Greg and I are both examples how you can pretty much do anything, when you put hard work into it.”
Sermon in action
Brown and Ford met each other at Title Boxing Club, where Brown works as a trainer. The two men sparred together, while Ford was training for “The Fight.” Ford said while it is disconcerting to go against a professional in the boxing ring, he believes he is ready.
“Neither of us is the villain. This isn’t David and Goliath,” Ford said. “We’re just two guys overcoming our own personal fights — two men who believe in the power of God. We just want to encourage people to apply the truth of God’s word to their situation.”
Ford said “The Fight” is an illustration of a five-part sermon series that he is presenting: the decision to fight; training for the fight; fear of the fight; persevering through the fight, and winning the fight.
“There is a huge difference between losing and failing. I can lose a fight without failing,” Ford said. “If I go in and complete the project, I have been successful — it’s a win. If this helps one person in their emotional, relational or spiritual fight, it’s a win.”
The event will also include pre-fight talks from Maurice Clarett, former OSU running back; Graham Holmberg, 2010 CrossFit World Games champion and Jerry Page, 1984 Olympic light welterweight gold medalist. Page, a Columbus native, will also officiate the three-round bout. J.D. Bergman, Team USA wrestler, will emcee.