Thursday, November 9, 2023

Ajagba Makes His Case

There are many constants in the sport of Boxing. Constants such as rival promoters who seemingly at any cost will avoid working with each other even if it were not only to their benefit, but of the sport itself. Fighters for whatever reason choosing to sit on the sidelines rather than compete on a regular basis. Despite the detriment to their careers, the lure of sitting out for one significant payday more often than not, proves to be too great. The numerous sanctioning organizations in the sport that due to their own individual policies, at times end up standing in the way of fights that not only the public wants to see, but bouts that are held in such regard that many believe it will elevate Boxing to a higher level.

These constants for better or worse are among the things that many associate with the sport. Perhaps one constant that does not always get the attention that it deserves is the constant pursuit of the next contender for a world championship. In regard to Boxing's Heavyweight division, it is a pursuit that seemingly goes hand and hand with a contender being able to make the transition to world champion. After all, whenever a fighter wins a world championship, inevitably the first question that follows any questions regarding the fight they just fought is either What's next for you? or Who's next for you?

The recent years in the division has seen two undefeated world champions Oleksandr Usyk and Tyson Fury emerge as the two central figures in the Heavyweight division. with Usyk and Fury continuing to do circles around each other as an encounter between the two for the Undisputed Heavyweight championship of the world remains ever elusive. With a fight between the two at least signed on paper to take place sometime in 2024, the scrambling of potential challengers to either face the winner of the potential Usyk-Fury fight or to potentially step in to face either champion, in the event of that potential fight falling through, is in full n

swing. One such fighter who is looking to emerge as a potential challenger is current WBC number seven rated Heavyweight contender Efe Ajagba. 

Ajagba, a native of Ughelli, Nigeria, had worked his way to a record of 18-1, with 13 Knockouts. The lone blemish on his record came in October 2021 when he lost a ten round decision to fellow rising contender Frank Sanchez. Since the loss to Sanchez, Ajagba rebounded to win three straight bouts. This culminated in his fight against Joe Goodall on November 4th at the Tahoe Blue Event Center in Lake Tahoe, NV. Goodall, a native of Brisbane, Australia, emerged on the scene earlier this year by scoring an unexpected sixth round stoppage of Stephen Shaw, a fighter that Ajagba had also scored a victory over earlier this year. In that fight, Goodall showed impressive punching power in being able to drop and ultimately stop Shaw. 

The unexpected, but impressive win for Goodall, opened the door for an opportunity for him to face Ajagba with the WBC's Silver Heavyweight championship at stake. In the overall picture however, the fight more importantly represented a chance to move into the top ten in the WBC's Heavyweight ratings for Goodall and for Efe Ajagba, the holder of the silver title, a chance to make a statement to try and drum up support for a potential title shot down the line.

What stood out to this observer was the sharp and consistent jab that Ajagba quickly established as a focal point of his offense. It was sharp, crisp, and used to create openings for his right hand and for hooks with either hand. For a short time, Goodall seemed to hold his own, did attempt to back Ajagba up, and did land some solid hooks to the head.

Goodall however, was unable to nullify Ajagba's ability to throw and land his jab, seemingly at will as he re-established distance between himself and Goodall and gradually began to break his opponent down. Ajagba's harder punches, and commitment to using a fundamental approach in his attack of Goodall created a barrage of unanswered punches in the fourth round, which forced the fight to be stopped.

Summed up simply, Goodall just did not have an answer to avoid Ajagba's jab, which served to set up effective combinations that only increased as the fight progressed. For Efe Ajagba, this proved to be the type of performance that a contender looks for as they aim to try and get an opportunity to fight for a world championship.

The obvious question is what is next? Obviously, the key for ant fighter that is looking to generate buzz for a potential challenge for a world title, the key is to try and stay active, but also do so strategically, which can prove to be a delicate balancing act between looking for opposition that will generate both interest and should the fighter be successful, only increase calls for that fighter to get that opportunity to fight for a world title, and the perceived element of what might be viewed specifically by a fighter's handlers as a fight that might be too risky. It certainly is not an exact science and the way a fighter is guided towards an opportunity at a world title will vary based on the fighter.

For now, Ajagba may look to fighter such as top contender Jonathan Guidry, who coincidentally also picked up a victory on November 4th in Miami, FL in scoring a second round knockout over previously undefeated Jesus Escalera, as a potential next opponent. Truth be told, anyone who is a top ten to top fifteen contender could be a potential opponent for a world champion based on their most recent performance. The question for Ajagba and Guidry, both top ten Heavyweight contenders, is if they see a potential fight between each other as potentially the quickest path to a potential title shot. Amongst the field of potential contenders that Ajagba could fight next, Guidry, a boxer/puncher with a good mix of hand speed and punching power, who narrowly lost a decision to former WBA number one contender Trevor Bryan in January 2022, his only career loss, might be the type of style challenge for Efe Ajagba to show he is ready for his shot at what could be at that time, the Undisputed Heavyweight championship of the world.

"And That's The Boxing Truth."

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