Sunday, March 26, 2023  |


Efe Ajagba is ready to make more heavyweight noise Saturday night in Las Vegas


He was found leaning against a wall, pretty much minding his own business in the warrens of Brooklyn’s Barclay Center last December amid the chaos of cameramen, and equipment people, arriving boxing teams and state commissioners running about. Efe Ajagba wore a whimsical smile watching people scramble around, and for someone who had a fight coming up soon, the towering 6-foot-5 Nigerian was unquestionably cool.

Ajagba looked out at the empty ring from the mouth of the tunnel opening, nodded his head, and then got ready.

He needed just 82 seconds to vanquish Santino Turnbow later that night.

Ajagba, 25, prefers it that way. The icy, confident approach. It works. The 2016 Olympian radiates an understated feeling that “I have this; no problem at all.”

Ajagba, who has never gone beyond five rounds as a pro, will be will faced with his stiffest test so far as a pro when he faces undefeated 2016 Turkish Olympian Ali Eren Demirezen (11-0, 10 knockouts) in a 10-round bout this Saturday on the undercard portion of the Keith Thurman-Manny Pacquiao on the FOX PBC Fight Night/FOX Deportes action (7pm ET/4pm PT) from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, Ajagba (10-0, 9 KOs) gained national notoriety last August 24 when his opponent, Curtis Harper, walked out of the ring after touching gloves to start the first round in what Harper claimed over a protest about his purse.

Since then, “The One And Only” has fought six rounds in the last two years, because he’s knocked everyone out he’s met.

In Demirezen, unbeaten since turning pro after the 2016 Olympics, he’ll be meeting a fighter making his U.S. debut. Demirezen, 29, has fought out of Hamburg, Germany, and defended his European heavyweight title against Adnan Redzovic in April, winning by disqualification.

“I’m very happy to make my U.S. debut versus a really good fighter like Efe Ajagba,” Demirezen said. “I’m very focused on that fight and being in the best shape ever to make a statement. I plan to have a great performance in Las Vegas because I know the U.S. boxing fans like real fighters. I’m sure they will love me after the fight.”

In the build-up for this fight, Ajagba said, “My goal is clear: I want to be heavyweight champion of the world. To get there I must continue to take on anyone and for the third time in my career it is another undefeated heavyweight. As they say ‘somebody’s o must go,’ and it won’t be mine. There’s no better platform for this performance than on the biggest boxing night of the year. The stage is set … don’t blink!”

The night he stopped Turnbow, Ajagba’s words were a little more telling: “I can be patient and keep improving, I’m in no major rush here. Each win I try to learn something more in becoming a complete fighter. The more I learn, the better I’ll get and I have some time to do it. All of the major champions (at the time) are older than me.

“My time will come. I know it.”

When it does, his days of leaning against an arena wall while the world passes by will be gone. They’ll be stopping to see “The One And Only.”

Joseph Santoliquito is the President of the Boxing Writers Association of America and has written for The Ring/ since 1997. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.



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