By Keith Idec, photos by Mikey Williams
It took Oleksandr Gvozdyk five-plus rounds to do something significant Saturday night.
Once he got going, though, the unbeaten light heavyweight contender clobbered Craig Baker in the manner their resumes suggested he would. Gvozdyk dropped Baker and stopped him in the sixth round of a scheduled 10-round fight at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.
ESPN broadcast Gvozdyk’s victory as the co-featured fight before undefeated champions Terence Crawford and Julius Indongo went at it in a full super lightweight championship unification match.
Ukraine’s Gvozdyk (14-0, 12 KOs) was winning through five rounds, but still got off to a slow start against an opponent he was expected to knock out.
He backed up Baker (17-2, 13 KOs) with a right hand with just over 1:20 to go in the sixth round and dropped him several seconds later with a right hand to the side of the head.
Baker got up, but Gvozdyk attacked him near the ropes, unloaded several unanswered punches and referee Celestino Ruiz stopped the bout at 2:04 of the sixth round.
Baker, 34, was knocked out for the second time in his past three fights. The Baytown, Texas, native was stopped in the third round of his May 2015 fight against by onetime super middleweight contender Edwin Rodriguez (29-2, 20 KOs).
Before Saturday night, Baker hadn’t fought since scoring a mild upset of Australian prospect Steve Lovett in June 2016. Baker got up from a fourth-round knockdown during that bout to knock out Lovett (15-2, 12 KOs, 1 NC) in the eighth round.
Gvozdyk’s advantages in skill, speed and power appeared evident early against Baker, but he looked lethargic through the first five rounds. There wasn’t much snap on his punches and he wasn’t aggressive.
Baker managed to land some right hands, but his punches didn’t seem to have much effect on his unbeaten opponent. Gvozdyk still was cautious for much of their fight before finally hurting Baker in the sixth round.