Riga, Latvia - Under the careful eye of none other than the reigning WBC heavyweight champion of the world Tyson Fury, as well as a number of excited Latvian fans, local light heavyweight Ricards Bolotniks produced one of his finest ever performances by completely outboxing and outfighting a once-beaten Brit Hosea Burton.
With a wide unanimous decision (100-90, 98-90 and 98-90) and two standing eight counts in his favour, Bolotniks moves on to the final of the MTK Golden Contract tournament, with MTK promoting the entire event in Riga.
In a classic slugger vs. stylist encounter, the lanky Brit (6'4'') chose to work on the outside of the much stockier Bolotniks (6'1''), who ducked down to transform himself into an even smaller target for Burton's occasional offensive outbursts.
Bolotniks, 30, marched forward behind a tight guard throwing almost no jabs but aiming to connect with something big. Burton, 32, tried to use his jab not to control or to push back his opponent but to measure a distance. Bolotniks was slightly better during the first three rounds but Burton delivered some leather too.
From round four, Bolotniks started to dominate. Feeling very little danger from Burton's punches, the WBO #12 / IBF #14 Latvian engaged more in exchanges, thrusting towards inept Burton and trying to land huge hooks and sometimes swings against the British fighter. He missed a lot, and with just seven kayos to his resume he lacked power to put Burton in real trouble. But the boxer from Carrington, UK, began to look like a beaten fighter and produced little fire in return. Bolotniks even started to throw his left jab and to land it on occasion.
With each fought round, Burton, a pre-fight favorite among some betting companies, returned less fire to the onrushing Bolotniks. In the one-sided ninth round, Bolotniks' aggression got to the point, when it became unsustainable by Burton. Finally, Bolotniks landed too many punches for Burton forcing ropes to keep him upright, thus forcing the referee to issue a count. Another count was issued moments later as Burton was rocked and hurt but didn't go down as standing eights were seemingly in effect. Burton was very lucky to survive the round, and Bolotniks also dominated the final tenth.
With a one-sided win, Bolotniks retained his WBO European 175lb title for the first time and improved his record to 17-5-1, with 7 KOs. Burton drops down to 25-2, 11 KOs, but his record is better than his performance suggests.
Liam Conroy (18-5-1, 9 KOs) will collide with Serge Michel (10-1, 7 KOs) in the second semifinal of the MTK Golden Contract 175lb tourney.
In a cruiserweight collision, Felipe Nsue, a Spain-based fighter from Equatorial Guinea, was disappointed to suffer a draw against taller but slower local hero Arturs Gorlovs (8-1-1, 7 KOs) over six rounds. Nsue (4-1-1, 3 KOs) scored with better precision, connected with hard blows to have Gorlovs' right eye almost shut by the end of the fight but was still announced to do not enough for what seemed to be a win in his favour.
Light welterweight Marcis Gundulis (9-1, 2 KOs) scored a dominant six-round unanimous decision over tough-luck Nicaraguan journeyman Brayan Mairena (10-17-1, 4 KOs). Grundulis tagged Mairena with solid shots, which landed with a thudding sound, but lacked power to put Mairena in real danger. Nicaraguan, who was 10-1-1 in his native and, before relocating himself to Europe two years ago, was in survival mode and was successful in reaching his only goal of the clash - to survive.
Hulking (6'7'') Ukrainian heavyweight Dmytro Bezus (4-0, 1 KO) started fast against much smaller and much older Frenchman Morgan Dessaux (6-8, 5 KOs) but faded as the bout progressed being content to earn a boring six-round unanimous decision in an uneventful fight with little to cheer about. Bezus showed how hard it can be to convert your size into something meaningful.
Florida-based Latvian light welterweight Arturs Ahmetovs (6-1, 2 KOs) scored a very hard-fought unanimous decision in what was an even fight versus Ukrainian journeyman Vladyslav Baranov (6-8-2, 4 KOs). No scores were announced but BoxingScene had it a draw: 57-57.
Stockier and more muscular Baranov pressed the action during the first half of the fight but fought more sporadically after the mid-point. Ahmetovs, who had previously lost to then-WBA interim lightweight champion Rolando Romero in February, did better in later rounds of a scheduled six-rounder. Nevertheless, he was put in danger in the fourth, when Baranov opened a nasty cut over his right eyebrow.
The Ukrainian also connected with a right cross, which put Ahmetovs down but was ruled either a push or a slip by a referee. Ahmetovs came back in the fifth by putting Baranov down with a blatant low blow. He repeated the trick in the sixth but, surprisingly, the referee started a count to the visual dismay of Baranov. The latter finished the bout on the offensive but was virtually ineffective, though the Latvian also has little to be proud of.