By Mark Eisner: In a pedestrian performance from second-tier heavyweight Efe Ajagba (17-1, 13 KOs) labored to a 10 round unanimous decision against an overly cautious defensive-minded Stephan Shaw (18-1, 13 KOs) in the main event on Saturday night at the Turning Stone Arena in Verona, New York.
Neither fighter looked like they wanted to take any chances, but the 2016 Olympian Ajagba was the aggressor against the 30-year-old Shaw.
The scores were 96-94, 96-94, and 96-94. Boxing News 24 scored it for Ajagba by 96-94.
- Jonnie Rice (16-6-1, 10 KOs) defeated 2016 Olympian Guido Vianello (10-1-1, 9 KO) by a seventh round TKO victory. The fight was halted during the seventh round due to a bad cut that Vianello had suffered in the sixth round after getting nailed by a huge right hand from Rice. The referee Benjy Estevez initially ruled that the cut was from a clash of heads. However, speaking to one of the commission members and seeing a replay of the punch from Rice in the sixth, the referee changed it to knockout. There was very little action the fight, as Rice was conserving his energy and holding back. He spent much of the fight backing up, trying to evade the shots from Vianello. When Rice did let his hands go, he was accurate, landing two big right hands in the third and then another in the sixth. Vianello fought reasonably well, but his lack of punching power limited what he could do.
- Featherweight contender Abraham ‘El Super’ Nova (22-1, 15 KOs) put on an impressive punching display, defeating Adam ‘Blunose’ Lopez (16-4, 6 KOs) by a 10 round unanimous decision. Nova, 28, was given credit for a knockdown in the sixth round after he pushed Lopez to the canvas. In the tenth round, Nova hurt Lopez with a right hand to the head in the final seconds. However, there wasn’t enough time for Nova to finish off Lopez. The scores were 97-91, 98-90, and 98-90. It was a good bounce-back performance for Nova, who had been knocked out by Robeisy Ramirez in the fifth round last June.
- Lightweight Haven Brady, Jr. (9-0, 4 KOs) beat Ruben Cervera (13-4, 11 KOs). The scores were 78-74, 79-73, and 80-72.
- Undefeated light heavyweight prospect Dante Benjamin Jr. (5-0, 3 KOs) made easy work of previously unbeaten Emmanueal Austin (6-1, 6 KOs), stopping him in the first round of a scheduled six round bout. The 20-year-old Benjamin Jr knocked Austin down. After Austin got back up, Benjamin unloaded on him, resulting in the referee stepping in to halt the contest. The time of the stoppage was 2:50 of the first round.
- Featherweight Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington (6-0, 3 KOs) defeated Juan Antonio Lopez (17-13-1, 7 KOs) by a one-sided six round unanimous decision. The scores were 60-54, 60-54, and 60-54.
- Welterweight prospect Brian Norman Jr. (23-0, 19 KOs) was forced to go the distance to defeat the strong-chinned Rodrigo Coria (10-5, 2 KOs) by an eight round unanimous decision. The scores were 79-72, 77-74, and 77-74. Norman Jr went all out trying to score a quick knockout, but Coria hung in there, taking shots and looking hurt in the first round. In the eighth, Normal dropped Coria, but later hurt himself in the round.
- Light welterweight Bryce Mills (11-1, 4 KOs) beat Margarito Hernandez (3-4-1) by a six round unanimous decision. The scores were 60-54, 60-54, and 60-54.
Preview: In the chief support bout, heavyweight Guido Vianello (10-0-1, 9 KO) takes on the big-punching Jonnie Rice (15-6-1, 10 KO) in a 10 round fight.
“It’s considered an even kind of match-ups between heavyweight prospects. I’d say that Ajagba is the little more well known guy, but he’s the slight underdog here despite being the better name. What do you make of it all,” said Max Kellerman to Max on Boxing about tonight’s heavyweight main event between Efe Ajagba and Stephan Shaw in a Top Rank-promoted event on ESPN.
“I love this match-up for both guys. Efe Ajagba is a guy that everybody that’s tuning in and everybody in the room knows what he’s looking at, which is that big right hand,” said Andre Ward about the 6’6″ Efe Ajagba, who Frank Sanchez recently beat.
“He’s blessed with power, and it’s a natural shot that comes off. As we saw in his lone loss, if you’re going to beat Efe Ajagba, it’s probably not going to be standing in front of him trading. It’s going to be outboxing him, and that’s what Stephan Shaw brings to the table.
“He’s a good boxer; he’s patient; he’s trained by my former Olympic coach Bashi Abdullah. So he’s got good teaching, and that’s the key to victory. Can Efe Ajagba do something other than just set up the right hand to offset the boxing of Shaw?
“Can Shaw take the right hand and find another gear in this fight in this fight with Efe Ajagba?” said Ward.
“First of all, Ajagba’s loss to Sanchez. Do you know what happens when a crude, big puncher gets in with a Cuban boxer with a deep amateur background? You might take an L,” said Kellerman. “That doesn’t mean the end of your prospect status. It just means you got put in wrong.”
Heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba (16-1, 13 KOs) fights replacement opponent Stephan Shaw (18-0, 13 KOs) in a 12 round fight on ESPN tonight at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Verona. The event starts at 10:00 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN+.
Ajagba probably wishes he was still scheduled to face Oscar Rivas instead of the crafty Shaw, but he suffered an injury and had to be replaced on short notice.