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Hosea Burton, Bob Ajisafe and a host of contenders set to enter the Golden Contract tournament

Hosea Burton
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With Hosea Burton and more in the tournament, Paul Wheeler assesses the eight men aiming to secure the 175lb Golden Contract

WITH the quarter-finals at featherweight and super-lightweight having already taken place, attention turns to the light-heavyweight division in MTK’s Golden Contract tournament this Saturday (December 14). Eight light-heavies will take to the ring over 10 rounds at the Brentwood Centre, each aiming to book their place in the final four.

At the time of writing, the draw for the quarters has yet to take place, yet regardless of this, no one fighter stands out above the others as a significant favourite to win the competition. It certainly looks like a largely well-matched line-up.

Arguably the two most well-known names are former British champions Hosea Burton, 24-1 (11), and Bob Ajisafe, 19-3 (9). At 6ft 4ins, Manchester’s Burton, 31, is the tallest of the contestants. Since losing his Lonsdale Belt to the all-action Frank Buglioni three years ago (rsf 12), he has been treading water. The same can be said of Leeds southpaw Ajisafe, 34. In May 2016, the ex-Commonwealth titlist was unanimously outscored on away turf in Russia by Umar Salamov, who was undefeated at the time. Ajisafe has only had three low-key outings since.

Newtownabbey’s 29-year-old Stephen Ward, 12-0 (4), and Barrow’s 27-year-old Liam Conroy, 17-5-1 (9), combined to produce a Fight of the Year contender in June. Conroy had challenged for the British title three months previously, yet it was the badly cut Ward who triumphed via technical eight-round decision – he won by a single point on all three cards.

Along with Ward, Kirkliston’s Tommy Philbin, 13-0 (4), is the only other unbeaten competitor. However, like Ward, the 29-year-old has only met a small handful of opponents with winning ledgers. New Cross’ 10-1 (4) Andre Sterling, also 29, is another who has faced just a smattering of adversaries with positive résumés. His last three fights have been in good company, though.

A brace of overseas boxers complete the selection. The 9-1 (7) Serge Michel, of Traunreut, Germany, boasts the best amateur pedigree, having performed at the 2016 Olympics. Yet this will be the 31-year-old’s first pro appearance off German soil. In contrast, Latvia’s Ricards Bolotniks, 15-5-1 (6), is very well travelled. The 29-year-old Riga native is currently in form but has a sketchy record overall.

It is difficult to predict a winner in what is an open field on the whole, but the smart money appears to be on the rangy and well-schooled Burton. Sky Sports Action televise in the UK, while ESPN+ broadcast in the US.

The Verdict There is no standout favourite in this one.

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