Efe Ajagba – A force to be reckoned with in the heavyweight division?
By Mikkel Stoevland: The man known as “The one and only” has racked up an impressive record of 13 consecutive wins to start his professional career. And with the decorated trainer Ronnie Shields in his corner and Al Haymon’s PBC to promote him, the future is looking bright for the young Nigerian. But questions remain as to whether he can step up to the big ranks in boxing’s most electrifying division.
Stemming from Ughelli, Nigeria, Ajagba didn’t always foresee a career in boxing. Originally envisioning a career as a football/soccer player, Efe had to give up on his dream after realizing he didn’t have the connections needed to succeed in the sport. Seventeen years old and working at a bakery, a friend of Ajagba suggested he should try out boxing, given his size and strength. And so, Ajagba went looking for a trainer.
Five years later, with a bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games, a gold in the All Africa Games and a loss in the quarterfinals in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games to show for, “The One and Only” was ready to take his talents to the pros.
Ajagba has professed a big admiration for Wladimir Klitschko, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the two fights. Much like Wlad, Ajagba has a great, stiff jab that he uses to walk down and corner his opponents, setting up his heavy right hand. Standing at 6’6” with an 85-inch reach and usually weighing in at about 240 lbs, Ajagba is also huge, even for a heavyweight, with a physique equally astonishing. But Ajagba is by no means a guy who relies solely on his athletic talent.
He is also a student of the game, a guy who always looks like he has added something new to his arsenal from one fight to the next. In the Wallisch fight, after seeing limited success with his straight punches in the first round, Ajagba showed the ability to make adjustments when he came out looping his hooks around the guard of Wallisch, stopping him before getting halfway through the second round.
In the Kiladze fight, we saw him moving in while throwing combinations and then tying up, making it difficult for his opponent to let his hands go. And the Cojanu fight showcased perhaps the sharpest Ajagba we have seen to date, showing a variety of punches and much better head movement than in previous fights, as well as an improved body punching ability. Ajagba and Shields indeed look to be making the most of their time in the gym.
Ajagba isn’t a fighter without flaws, however. He often leaves his hands out after throwing combinations and has been regarded as fairly one dimensional with the one-two being his only real weapon. Sometimes falling off balance when throwing power shots, he could benefit from sitting down more when throwing sometimes. Also, his punch output can drop significantly once on the inside, as was seen when Cojanu got within his reach. His finishing ability has also shown a bit to be desired. While struggling to put away a hurt and desperate Kiladze, Efe got caught by a right hand, sending him to the canvas for the first time in his career. Whether he can correct some of his mistakes and keep showing improvements moving forward will surely be interesting to see.
Efe Ajagba has had a good trajectory so far in his career, but there is still a ways to go. So far, he has shown patience, calmness, legit power, and the determination and work ethic needed to become champion of the world. But there are still improvements to be made and more to learn before he can step in the ring with the top dogs of the division. But with the right people surrounding him and his mind focused on the craft, there is no reason to believe Efe can’t achieve special things in the sport.
As the world sits in a stand-still and boxing fans find themselves revisiting old fights and debating both upcoming and fantasy matchups to stay busy, one thing remains clear as day; The heavyweight division is more alive than it has been in years and with guys like Efe Ajagba rising the ranks, this division will be a blessing to boxing fans for years to come.
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