DARK horse Ricards Bolotniks surged into the Golden Contract light-heavyweight last four by stopping Steven Ward in 141 seconds on another packed MTK fight night at the Brentwood Centre.

The Latvian was unheralded in the eight-man mix in the light-heavyweight tournament and was not expected to get past Ward, who had hand-picked him in the draw during fight week.

But Bolotniks made a statement with an explosive performance against his taller opponent, which included three knockdowns before referee Phil Edwards waved it off after 2-21 of round one.

First he dropped the Belfast man heavily with a counter left hook which Ward did well to get up from at all. But his senses were still scrambled as Bolotniks piled on the pressure and a second knockdown followed soon afterwards.

Up Ward climbed once more but he was not there for long and as he touched down again the towel came in from the corner – but Edwards had already decided enough was enough. Now Bolotniks can look ahead to semi-finals and enjoying Christmas with his £5,000 cash bonus for producing a knockout.

Steven Ward reacts after being knocked down against Ricards Bolotniks Action Images/Adam Holt

But despite Bolotniks’ fireworks, Hosea Burton still looks like the man to beat in the tournament after he outpointed Bob Ajisafe in a pairing which would have been fit for the final. The Manchester man floored Ajisafe with a sharp right hand after just six seconds of round one but the southpaw from Leeds managed to compose himself and make it to the end of the round.

In the end, there would be no stoppage bonus for Burton, who patiently boxed his way to a unanimous decision. Steve Gray scored it 99-92, Kieran McCann 91-98 and Terry O’Connor 99-90. Edwards was the referee.

“I landed the back hand early, put the manners on him and went back to boxing,” Burton said. “You can’t go wild at Bob. If you go wild at him, you run the risk of him switching your lights off because he’s got 
power. I’m over the moon with that performance.”

Joining Burton and Bolotniks in the semi-finals are Serge Michel and Liam Conroy, who also secured their progression via 10-round decision victories.
In the first quarter-final of the evening, Russia-born German Michel dropped Tommy Philbin twice en route to a reasonably straightforward win. First he floored the Edinburgh native with a left hook to the body towards the end of the third round.

Philbin, who only got the call to fight a few weeks ago, managed to dig deep to make it to the bell but he never looked in control of the contest after that.
Then, in the closing stages of the 10th and final round, Michel sealed his lopsided decision with a knockdown which came when a right hand landed high on Philbin’s head.  Edwards and Gray both scored it 99-90 to the “Bavarian Sniper” while O’Connor had it 98-90. Kieran McCann was the ref.

Meanwhile, Conroy booked his spot after finding a way past Andre Sterling. The former British title challenger boxed well against his rough, tough opponent and managed to punctuate the victory with a knockdown in the seventh, which came via a short left hook that dropped Sterling heavily.

O’Connor scored him a 98-91 victor while McCann had it slightly closer at 97-92. Edwards’ card of 96-94 was a nod to Sterling’s persistence throughout.

In the pick of the undercard action, Dan Azeez claimed the English light-heavyweight title with a 10-round decision over Lawrence Osueke. It is only two months since 32-year-old Newcastle man Osueke drew with Ricky Summers, so it was a quick turnaround to face the highly touted Azeez, of Lewisham. The former Southern Area champion, 30, has been moved steadily to date and this was the next clear step towards a possible shot at the British title.

In one of the most complete performances of his career to date, Azeez showed why he will be one to watch in 2020 and the judges agreed. O’Connor had him winning 99-91 while Edwards and McCann returned cards of 98-93 and 98-92 respectively.

“I didn’t really come out of first gear,” Azeez said. “I just boxed sensibly and we keep moving on and we keep moving up. I’ve won the Southern Area, I’ve just won the English, so people know what’s coming 

Hosea Burton (174 3/4lbs), 25-1 (11), w pts 10 Bob Ajisafe (174 1/2lbs), 19-4 (9); Ricards Bolotniks (174 3/4lbs), 16-5-1 (7), w rsf 1 Steven Ward (175lbs), 12-1 (4); Liam Conroy (174 3/4lbs), 18-5-1 (9), w pts 10 Andre Sterling (174 1/2lbs), 10-2 (4); Serge Michel (174 1/2lbs), 10-1 (7), w pts 10 Tommy Philbin (173 1/2lbs), 13-1 (4); Dan Azeez (174 1/2lbs), 11-0 (7), w pts 10 Lawrence Osueke (174 1/4lbs), 9-1-1 (1); Jamie Robinson (143lbs), 10-4-1 (3), w pts 6 (60-54) Daryl Pearce (142 1/4lbs), 1-6; Jordan Flynn (136 1/4lbs), 1-0, w pts 4 (39-37) Daniel Alder (136 1/2lbs), 1-6; George Mitchell (157 1/2lbs), 1-0, w pts 4 (40-36) Paul Cummings (156 1/2lbs), 2-44; Inder Bassi Singh (155 1/4lbs), 1-0, w pts 4 (40-36) Geiboord Omier (159lbs), 4-48-1 (3); Mohammed Sameer, 1-0 (1), w rsf 3 Scott Hillman, 0-46; James Hawley, 5-0, w pts 4 (39-37) Lewis van Poetsch, 9-116-2 (2).