Ricards Bolotniks stole the show with a first-round knockout of Steven Ward in the final quarterfinals of the Golden Contract light heavyweight tournament Saturday at the Brentwood Centre in east London.
Bolotniks (16-5-1, 7 KOs) floored Ward three times in an explosive start en route to a £5,000 knockout bonus. The 29-year-old fighter from Riga, Liva, is a surprise contender in the eight-man elimination tournament.
Ward (12-1, 4 KOs), 29, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, was first stunned by a left hook to the chin and never really recovered. He went down a second time after being caught by a right uppercut amid a barrage of punches.
After a second count, Ward was soon back on the canvas after another flurry of punches, and referee Phil Edwards stopped the fight with 40 seconds remaining in the first round.
England’s Hosea Burton also had a blistering start in his quarterfinal victory, flooring Bob Ajisafe after just six seconds with a right hand en route to a unanimous decision.
The 31-year-old Burton (25-1, 11 KOs) — a former British light heavyweight champion and a cousin of former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury — went on to a convincing win by scores of 99-90, 99-92 and 98-91 over Ajisafe (19-4, 9 KOs), also a former British champion.
Ajisafe, 34, from Leeds, was caught by a perfect one-two from Burton at the outset of the fight, going to the mat with the second punch of the fight.
“Bob Ajisafe is tricky puncher — he put Tony Bellew over — and I out-boxed him tonight,” Burton said. “I came out with a one-two and caught him clean. For me, that was the final.
“… [Trainer] Joe [Gallagher] told me to put the right hand on him early, and that was the earliest I could put it on him.”
Ajisafe, who has been restricted to one fight a year since 2016, recovered and regained his composure in the second round, but Burton’s razor-sharp jab kept Burton in control of the bout, as he continued to land the straight right.
In the first quarterfinal of the night, Serge Michel twice floored Tommy Philbin on his way to a victory by unanimous decision, leading 99-90, 99-90 and 98-90 on the judges’ scorecards.
The victory was a needed confidence boost for the 31-year-old Michel (10-1, 7 KOs) following his knockout loss to Canada’s Ryan Ford in April.
Philbin (13-1, 4 KOs), 29, from Edinburgh, Scotland, had entered the tournament on short notice and stepped up a weight class for the opportunity. Michel, a native of Russia who is based in Germany, dropped the Scottish boxer with a left to the body in the first round.
After getting back to his feet late in the count, Philbin battled back gamely, including some good combinations to the body in the fifth round.
Michel, who competed at the 2016 Olympics, failed to make a dent in Philbin with an attack late in the sixth, and Philbin had some success in the seventh round with a couple of uppercuts. Michel, however, sent Philbin back to the canvas in the final round with a right to the side of the head.
Liam Conroy (18-5-1, 9 KOs), 27, from Cumbria, England, also was a comfortable winner in his quarterfinal bout against Andre Sterling, winning 98-91, 96-94, 97-92 on the judges’ scorecards. The Londoner knocked down Sterling in the seventh and again hurt his opponent in the final round.
After losing his unbeaten record in the summer by unanimous decision to Craig Richards, Sterling (10-2, 4 KOs), 29, slipped to a second successive defeat after a polished performance from Conroy, who had lost two of his past three fights.