Light heavyweight contender Oleksandr Gvozdyk (14-0, 12 KO) registered a sixth-round knockout of Craig Baker (17-2, 13 KO) in the co-feature of a boxing card at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb., on August 19. The 30-year-old Ukrainian went down a notch in terms of quality opponent when compared to his two most recent bouts. The 2012 Olympic bronze medalist pounded Yunieski Gonzalez (18-3, 14 KO) into the ground in round three last April, and destroyed longtime contender Isaac Chilemba (25-5-2, 10 KO) in an eighth-round knockout in November 2016. These days Gvozdyk has difficulty in finding quality opponents willing to fight him.
This was not the case with the 33-year-old Texas native, Baker. He was returning to the ring from a 14-month hiatus and quickly agreed to the fight simply because he needed a fight.
Gvozdyk, nicknamed “Nail,” consistently threw his long left jab at Baker while mixing in some more forceful punches through Baker’s high guard. Gvozdyk landed right hands to his older opponent’s body, but only a few power shots made an impact. The outmatched Baker could land almost nothing in return.
The sixth round saw Gvozdyk finally break through with a mighty right hand to the side of Baker’s head, sending him down to one knee. Baker beat the count, but the undefeated Ukrainian pounded him along the ropes, forcing referee Celestino Ruiz to step in and stop the match at 2:04 seconds.
The man Gvozdyk ultimately wants to fight, unified light heavyweight world titleholder Andre Ward (32-0, 16 KO), was ringside working as an ESPN analyst.
“I would like to fight Andre Ward,” Gvozdyk said in a post-fight press conference. “I think I am ready. My goal is to be a champion, and the only way to be a champion is to beat a champion and he holds most of the belts. He’s a very tough fighter, one of the best at any weight. I want to fight the best and I consider Ward the best pound-for-pound fighter, and I want to fight him.”
Gvozdyk landed 30 percent of his punches (127 out of 419), while Baker managed 20 percent (39 of 194).
The Gvozdyk-Baker fight was for the North American Boxing Federation and North American Boxing Organization light heavyweight titles.