Efe Ajagba – The next Nigerian Heavyweight Contender?

Ajagba vs Nick Jones

On the undercard of Shawn Porter’s first defence of his WBC Welterweight crown on March 9th in Carson, California against Cuban Yordenis Ugas, Nigerian heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba (8-0-0 7KO’s) takes a step-up fight against the experienced former contender, 46-year-old Amir Mansour.

Mansour, a native of Salem, New Jersey is seen as a big jump in talent for Ajagba. Mansour was once a (20-0-0) prospect before his loss to former cruiserweight Steve Cunningham by unanimous decision in 2014. He rebounded by beating Fred Kassi, and Joey Dawejko, drawing with the then (16-0-0) Gerald Washington before losing to Dominic Breazeale when he retired in the 5th round. A decision win over contender Travis Kauffman (31-1-0) in March 2017 revitalised Mansour’s position in the heavyweight landscape but a No-contest result after a bout against unbeaten Sergey Kuzmin in Russia and a knockout loss to Filip Hrgovoc (5-0-0) in the 3rd round, appear to have tempted Ajagba’s management to use Mansour as a springboard to bigger things.

Mansour’s advanced age and a knockout defeat in his last outing probably make this matchup safer than it first looks.

A close inspection of Ajagba’s pro resume shows a pair of unbeaten opponents, Luke Lyons (5-0-0) and Nick Jones (7-0-0) that likely showed up with the intention of winning, the rest were good learning fights for the former 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympian.

Trained by Ronnie Shields, Efe has shown good power and athleticism. He throws the right hand straight as an arrow and follows it with good left hooks and uppercuts. At 6ft 5 inches and weighing around 235lbs, Ajagba cuts a formidable figure in the ring and is both big enough and agile enough to trouble the giants that frequent the top positions in heavyweight boxing today. In some of his pro bouts to date, Ajagba has stood up tall and been tagged a little too easily, but Ronnie Shields will get his man slipping these straight shots and countering off them soon enough.

Nigeria has produced decent heavyweights before and it can only be hoped that Efe is going to add himself to the list:

Samuel Peter
Herbie Hide
Ike Ibeabuchi
David Defiagbon
Friday Ahunanya
David Izon
James Oyebola

Hide is the only Nigerian born heavyweight that went on to hold a version of the title (WBO). He had two reigns, losing to Riddick Bowe and Vitali Klitschko.

Henry Akinwande went on to hold the same version (WBO) but he was born in London of Nigerian parents and represented Great Britain at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

Mansour vs Travis Kauffman

It’s way too early to be comparing Efe to some of those fighters listed, but signs are good for now and with the guidance of old hands Shelley Finkel and Al Haymon it should be exciting to watch.

Ajagba’s non-fight with Curtis Harper last year made headlines that PR agents would give up a limb for. As the bell sounded to start the first round, Harper climbed out through the ropes and went back to his dressing room before leaving for home. The episode went viral and brought attention to Ajagba as a prospect to watch. Priceless !!!

Is Ajagba vs Mansour good matchmaking or a leap too far too soon? That as with so many prospect vs veteran matches depends on what the veteran retains from his heyday. Can Efe Ajagba take world-class punches? Can he deal with a battle-tested southpaw? If Mansour retains the drive and desire he showed in his 2017 bout against Travis Kauffman we may find the answers to these questions on March 9th .

History tells us that Ajagba will pass the test, we will see.

You can watch the fight live on FOX & FOX Deportes

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