Daniyar Yeleussinov chose his best opponent on paper to deliver his most explosive pro performance to date.
The two-time Olympian and 2016 Gold medal winner from Kazakhstan had his way with Reshard Hicks, scoring an emphatic 1st round knockout in a battle of unbeaten welterweights Friday evening at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York City.
Two knockdowns by Yeleussinov paved the way for the immediate stoppage at 2:38 of round one.
Hicks (12-1-1, 7KOs) entered the bout as a virtual unknown but the Killeen, Texas native figured to offer a stern test in their DAZN-streamed bout. Yeleussinov enjoyed a rich amateur career but had yet to really make a splash in the pro ranks.
That changed in a hurry.
The 28-year old southpaw bad struggled in each of his last two starts, scoring clean wins but not looking like a world beater. He made a specific adjustment in training camp, his newfound aggression evident from the outset. Hicks struggled to keep pace, quickly finding himself on the defense and eventually on the canvas less than two minutes into the evening. The 34-year old Texan beat the count but never showed any indication of eventually turning the tide.
Yeleussinov sensed as much and was prepared to close the show.
“We really wanted the knocked out win in our last two fights but it did not happen,” Yeleussinov (8-0, 4KOs) said after the bout. “We made a change in training camp and wanted to show tonight that we can deliver the knockout finish.”
That wish came true seconds later, when Hicks was flattened with a shot to the chin. No count was necessary this time around, as the ringside physician was rushed into the ring.
As for next steps, Yeleussinov would very much love to challenge the heart of the welterweight division—but is prepared to go about it the responsible way.
“I don’t want to call out any names,” noted the rangy Kazakh boxer, who is now based in Miami. “We want to fight for the title and I’m willing to face any opponent that will bring me in that direction.”
The bout served in supporting capacity to an interim lightweight title fight between unbeaten contenders Devin Haney (22-0, 14KOs) and Zaur Abdullaev (11-0, 7KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox