Featherweight Nick Ball would have had less than three months to get over his split-decision draw with Rey Vargas when he steps into the ring with WBA champion Raymond Ford on the Queensberry-Matchroom 5 vs 5 undercard for Artur Beterbiev-Dmitrii Bivol in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 1.

“Yeah that’s it innit,” Ball told BoxingScene from the Red Triangle Gym in Liverpool. “I’ve had this opportunity to get this world title fight again thanks to everyone who is involved. I’m looking forward to it. Another world title shot and another massive opportunity. It’s one I’m looking to take with both hands. I can’t wait for the fight. It’s massive, it’s next level stuff. Exciting times, everyone will be watching in Saudi. I’m made up to be a part of it.”

Ball (19-0-1, 11 KOs) was considered unfortunate in his draw with WBC champion Vargas in Riyadh on March 3. Vargas visited the canvas in rounds eight and 11. 

“Yeah, that last one was a draw and things like that but it is in the past,” Ball said. “I’ll leave it where it is and focus on what is in front of me. It was frustrating fighting him, to be honest with you. He was running away, falling on the floor. The ref was breaking it up, it was just a frustrating fight more than anything. I was trying to pin him down, which was nearly impossible, but I nearly got him. 

“That is boxing. Everyone has got their ways of surviving and trying to win. I didn’t think he would run away like that all night, he’s a former world champion. He’s Mexican, they say that they are all tough and things like that. He was the complete opposite weren’t he? Yeah, I didn’t really expect it. I was shocked, I think everyone in there was shocked. Things like that happen though, it is how you come back from them.”

With little time to dwell on his middle-eastern debut, Ball’s promoter Frank Warren was quickly on the phone. 

“He had this other opportunity for me straight away,” Ball added. “Within a week he rang me after the [Vargas] fight, and he said this opportunity had come up with the 5 v 5 and all that. It was a no-brainer, obviously, to be involved in that.”

The extravagant bill on June 1, promoted by Turki Alalshikh’s Riyadh Season, saw 10 masked fighters sitting on the stage in London to announce the card. The masks came off one-by-one as Frank Warren and Eddie Hearn’s stables were pitted against each other. 

“I did have an idea about the masks because we had to go to Bulgaria to do the filming for the promo video,” Ball explained. “So we did that, which was another mad experience. Then, before the press conference, we were told to put these masks on. We put them on and all walked up on stage. 

“I had it on and the plastic was digging in [points to his forehead]. A few of the lads will tell you. My Mum text me saying, ‘Wipe your forehead, you are bleeding.’ Yeah, the mask was digging in. It’s not good but it is all good now. It’s just a different approach to a show, but overall it is the same because you have to focus on yourself and your own fight. Otherwise it’s not a team thing, you might focus on something else and you might not get the job done. Obviously we are Queensberry and we want to be the winning team, but we have to focus on getting that job done first.”

Ford comes off a Fight of the Year candidate with Otabek Kholmatov, scoring a last gasp stoppage to claim his first world title.

“It was good,” Ball said of Ford’s win. “I didn’t watch the whole thing, I watched the highlights and the first five rounds or something, then the ending. He pulled it out of the bag and got the job done. Hats off to him. I don’t know what to expect from him and I don’t really care. I’m focused on myself and what I can do.”  

The 27-year-old Liverpudlian will make consecutive appearances in the Middle East alongside back-to-back title shots. 

“It’s different but good as well,” Ball said, of his last trip to Saudi Arabia. “It was a boss experience, you get treated very good over there. Life is good, definitely. It’s exciting times and something to look forward to. I just got to do what I’ve been doing and do what’s got me into this position. Keep the people around me that have helped me to get here because I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them.”

Ball’s career took a sharp turn north following a sixth-round stoppage against Issac Lowe on Tyson Fury-Dillian Whyte undercard two years ago at Wembley Stadium. The explosive victory shot Ball into the WBC rankings from England’s small hall obscurity to one of the UK’s most exciting fighters.

“I signed with Queensberry on like my 12th fight or something,” Ball remembered. “Then I fought him in my 15th fight. Since then it has been up, hasn’t it? It looks quick from the outside looking in, but it doesn’t happen overnight. I’m in the gym day-in day-out with the lads and have been putting the work in. Hard work pays off. If you put that in, you get opportunities like this.”