Golden Contract, a new eight-man elimination tournament introduced earlier this year, has its third instalment in the light-heavyweight division on Saturday at the Brentwood Centre, in east London, and live on ESPN+ in the United States in association with Top Rank.
No major world titleholders are among the tournaments announced so far, but the prize on offer is substantial and career-changing.
According to the competition’s organizers, UK-based MTK Global, the winner of each tournament will land a two-year deal that guarantees six-figure purses for every fight along with global exposure.
The semifinals and final will take place in 2020. The draw for Saturday’s quarterfinals was made earlier this week with bouts scheduled for ten rounds, with knockout bonuses an added incentive.
Here’s a guide to the light-heavyweight tournament, which follows the super lightweight and featherweight quarterfinals in November and October respectively.
Hosea Burton (24-1, 11 KOs)
Former British light-heavyweight champion Hosea Burton, a cousin of former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, believes he is facing the tournament’s toughest opponent in his quarterfinal.
Burton said: “This is basically the final. I can beat any of these, and Bob Ajisafe can beat any of them.”
Burton, 31, from Manchester, is a slick boxer who has not lost since he was stopped in the final round against Frank Buglioni for the British title in 2016.
“Winning this tournament would put my career back to where it should have been three years ago, so this is a must-win tournament,” Burton said. “This will put me where I need to be. I’ve been ducked and avoided for three years now and this will be big for me.”
Bob Ajisafe (19-3, 9 KOs)
Like Burton, Ajisafe, 34, is a former British champion who took Tony Bellew — later to become world cruiserweight champion — to a points decision in 2010. The Leeds boxer has been a professional 12 years but has been limited to one fight a year since 2016. Ajisafe-Burton is the pick of the quarterfinals.
Andre Sterling (10-1, 4 KOs)
Sterling, from south London, won the Southern Area light-heavyweight title in just his ninth pro bout, suffered his sole career defeat when he was outpointed by world-ranked Craig Richards back in June.
Liam Conroy (17-5-1, 9 KOs)
Conroy, 27, from Cumbria, is looking to revive his career through the Golden Contract after suffering two defeats in 2019. Joshua Buatsi had too much for Conroy in a three-round win for the British title in April. Conroy then suffered another defeat when he was narrowly beaten by a technical decision when Steven Ward suffered a cut in their June meeting.
Steven Ward (12-0, 4 KOs)
Ward, 29, from Belfast in Northern Ireland, has had a training camp in the United States to prepare for the tournament.
“It’s been a great camp throughout and I’ve been away to Las Vegas sparring some top fighters in the Top Rank gym so I feel in a good place,” Ward, known as ‘The Quiet Man’, said. Ward won a technical decision over Liam Conroy after a thriller in June, and tends to use his reach rather than power to win fights.
Ricards Bolotniks (15-5-1, 6 KOs)
Bolotniks, 29, from Riga in Latvia, has compiled four wins in his home city since suffering two defeats in 2018.
On his last visit to London in 2014, Bolotniks was stopped in four rounds by Andreas Evangelou, but he said: “The field in the Golden Contract is convenient for my style. Liam Conroy and Serge Michel stand out a bit because they are strong punchers but I’m confident I can handle any of them.”
Serge Michel (9-1, 7 KOs)
Russia-born Michel, 31, turned professional after competing at the 2016 Olympics and was unbeaten until Canada’s Ryan Ford knocked him out in April. But the ‘Bavarian Sniper’ has a good knockout ratio and is eager to make an impression with the competition being screened live in the UK and US.
Michel said: “The two most important and biggest markets will be watching us showcase our qualities as a professional boxer and I’m just grateful to receive such a big opportunity.”
Tommy Philbin (13-0, 4 KOs)
Philbin, 29, from Edinburgh, has had two fights in 2019 after depression restricted him to one fight in 19 months. “At the moment, I have to work full-time and fit my training and family time around it so it’d be great to get a chance to go full time and more Lauren and the kids,” Philbin said.