LINCOLN, Neb. -- Light heavyweight contender Oleksandr Gvozdyk is close to a mandatory world title shot and stayed on course Saturday night at the Pinnacle Bank Arena.
Gvozdyk scored a sixth-round knockout of Craig Baker in the co-feature of the undisputed junior welterweight world title fight between Terence Crawford and Julius Indongo before 12,121.
Gvozdyk, 30, was taking a step down in opposition from his most recent two fights, when the 2012 Ukrainian Olympic bronze medalist destroyed Yunieski Gonzalez in the third round in April and dominated longtime contender Isaac Chilemba in an eighth-round knockout in November, but finding quality opponents willing to fight Gvozdyk is not easy.
Baker, 33, of Baytown, Texas, however, coming off a 14-month layoff, quickly accepted the fight because he simply could not get a fight at all.
Throughout the bout, Gvozdyk snapped his long left jab at Baker, who kept a high guard, but he still got through with some hard ones. Gvozdyk also went to the body and landed right hands but had a hard time landing any really clean power shots. Baker (17-2, 13 KOs), however, landed almost nothing of consequence.
Finally, in the sixth round, Gvozdyk (14-0, 12 KOs) broke through. He landed a powerful right hand to the side of Baker's head and he went down to a knee. He beat the count, but Gvozdyk continued to pound him along the ropes, forcing referee Celestino Ruiz to step in and stop the bout at 2 minutes, 4 seconds.
Unified light heavyweight world titleholder Andre Ward was ringside working as an ESPN analyst and that's the man Gvozdyk would like to fight.
"I would like to fight Andre Ward," Gvozdyk said. "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."
Stevenson routs Paz
The professional education of blue chip featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson (3-0, 1 KO), the flashy 2016 U.S. Olympic silver medalist, continued as he routed David Paz (4-4-1, 0 KOs) to win a shutout decision with ease, smiling all the way.
Stevenson boxed circles around Paz and he was rewarded with shutout scores of 60-53 on all three scorecards. He was much faster, more accurate and landed to the body and head consistently, though he never appeared to inflict much damage. But in the fifth round he landed a shot that knocked Paz's mouthpiece out.
"I got to get my power up," Stevenson said. "I got to work on my power in the gym. He had a great chin, but I feel like I put on a good show."
Later in the fifth round, Stevenson, a 20-year-old southpaw from Newark, New Jersey, dropped Paz, 23, of Argentina, with a left hand but the round ended before he could get off any more punches.
Sitting ringside for the fight was unified light heavyweight world titleholder Ward, who was working the ESPN telecast as an analyst but who is also one of Stevenson's managers.
He said, "One thing I would like Shakur do more is use the jab and I talk to him about that all the time."
Stevenson, who turned pro in April and fought again in May, said Ward was right.
"I was trying to get a knockout and get in a good hard punch but he's right," Stevenson said. "I need to use my jab more."
Stevenson is expected to next fight on Oct. 31 on the undercard of junior featherweight Jessie Magdaleno's mandatory defense against Cesar Juarez.
Welterweight Mike Alvarado (38-4, 26 KOs), a former junior welterweight world titleholder, had a lot of trouble with Sidney De Siqueira (26-13-1, 17 KOs) before turning out the lights with one massive right hand in the fourth round.
De Siqueira, 40, of Brazil, hit Alvarado with everything in the first round of what became a slugfest. Alvarado landed a big uppercut in the second round, but De Siqueira continued to take it to him as well, swelling his right eye. But as Alvarado continued to struggle, he unleashed a crushing right hand that rendered De Siqueira out cold on the mat as referee Tom Anderson waved off the fight without a count at 1 minute, 20 seconds.
De Siqueira lost his fifth fight in a row, but it was the first knockout loss in the stretch. Alvarado, 37, of Denver, won his fourth fight in a row.
Junior welterweight Mike Reed (23-0, 12 KOs), a 22-year-old southpaw from Waldorf, Maryland, laid a beating on Rob Frankel (35-18-1, 7 KOs), 37, of Denver, in a shutout decision. All three judges scored the fight 100-90 and no rounds were even close. Reed is on the verge of a title elimination fight or fighting for a vacant world title fight should the winner of the main event move up in weight and vacate.
Junior lightweight Kevin Ventura (8-0, 7 KOs), 21, of Omaha, Nebraska, gave the hometown fans a third-round knockout victory against Baltazar Ramirez (3-4, 3 KOs), 23, of Mexico, in a crowd-pleasing fight. Baltazar lost his third in a row but first in the stretch by knockout though he was game until the end, which came when Ventura landed a solid left hook that dropped to a knee and referee Paul Parry counted him out at 1 minute, 53 seconds.
Light heavyweight Steve Nelson (9-0, 7 KOs), 29, of Omaha, Nebraska, who is co-managed by Crawford, cruised to a shutout decision against Cesar Ruiz (5-6, 2 KOs), 26, of Mexico, in a crowd-pleasing six-rounder. All three judges scored the bout 60-54 in favor of Nelson, who was a 2012 U.S. Olympic alternate.