NINE months after blasting out Steven Ward inside a round at the Brentwood Centre, bearded Latvian Ricards Bolotniks was back in action on home soil in the semi-finals of MTK’s Golden Contract light-heavyweight tournament.
Studio 69, complete with its York Hall-style balcony overlooking the ring, played host to Manchester’s Hosea Burton. In his first outing of the year, the visitor slipped to only the second defeat of his career. The local favourite’s triumph – by a wide margin on all three cards – was aided by Burton being counted twice in the ninth and penultimate round.
Having moved onto the front foot from the outset, and after both had scored with early rights, Bolotniks slammed home the first really eye-catching shot of the night midway through the opener – a right to the head. Joe Gallagher-trained former British champion Burton, however, was unfazed and, happy enough on the back foot, he hit back. A right downstairs and then a couple of combinations to the head hit the target as the bell approached.
Precious little separated the pair in the next. Bolotniks, in his long red socks, continuously edged forward and found the body of Hosea, who responded well once more.
Cutting off the ring with increasing regularity in the third, Bolotniks, looking to work on the inside, appeared to be settling and there was a wide grin on his face as he returned to his corner at the bell.
More of the same followed, with Burton, skirting the perimeter of the ring, jabbing regularly off the back foot as Ricards pressed. Bolotniks’ confidence was boosted when he found the target with a weighty pair of rights to the head. A right cross by way of reply from Hosea was greeted by a shrug from the shorter man.
Bolotniks, 30, was warned by referee Nikita Versockis to keep his punches up in the fifth, having let one stray a little low prior to “The Hammer” rattling him with a right to the head and a fine uppercut. Before the round was out, Burton, 32, was also reprimanded for sending one south of the border.
Hosea opened the second half of the bout with another decent right uppercut, a shot which drew applause from the tattooed Bolotniks who, thanks in no small part to him then landing another pair of lefts, was beginning to stretch his lead.
A right to the head and a better one to the body by “The Lion” had his fans roaring again. Despite being tagged by a heavy right uppercut with around 30 seconds of the seventh remaining, Bolotniks responded with a degree of ferocity to ensure the round went his way, leaving Hosea with a bloodied nose.
Having bossed the eighth for the most part, Bolotniks stepped it up halfway through the ninth, hurting Hosea with a left to the body and a combination upstairs which drove him back into his own corner. Under heavy fire, Burton was given the first of two counts in quick succession, the ropes adjudged to have kept him up on both occasions. Quite how Burton managed to dig in and make it through to the bell only he knows. While there were no more scares in the much-closer final session, there was only ever going to be one winner, even if the fight was closer than the scorecards suggest.
Two of the cards read 98-90 at the finish, while one was even wider at 100-90 – all for Bolotniks. He will now face the winner of the Liam Conroy-Serge Michel contest in the final.
It was interesting to note that there was barely a face mask in sight, either in the corners, at ringside, or anywhere else inside the packed venue. A couple of television cameramen were seemingly the only wearers.
The Verdict Burton’s first fight outside of the UK does not go the way he would have hoped.
Ricards Bolotniks (173lbs 11oz), 17-5-1 (7), w pts 10 Hosea Burton (174lbs 6oz), 25-2 (11); Arturs Gorlovs, 8-1-1 (7), d pts 6 Felipe Nsue, 4-1-1 (3).