Sunday, April 02, 2023  |


Ajagba-Sanchez, Kownacki-Helenius II announced for Fury-Wilder III undercard

Efe Ajagba weigh-in (Photo by Sean Michael Ham/PBC)
Fighters Network

The loaded undercard of the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder world title fight on July 24 was officially announced Tuesday.

Three heavyweight bouts, two featuring clashes between unbeaten fighters, will take place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The four-bout telecast will air live on pay-per-view

In the co-feature, Efe Ajagba will face Frank Sanchez in a 10-round bout with the winner moving a step towards contender status.

Ajagba (15-0, 12 knockouts), who is originally from Ughelli, Nigeria and now lives and trains in Stafford, Texas, knocked out Brian Howard in round 3 of his last bout on April 10. The win over Howard came almost seven months after his promotional debut with Top Rank, which was a decision victory over Jonathan Rice. 

The 27-year-old has stopped seven of his last nine bouts, but believes he has improved his skill-set with trainer Kay Koroma over the last several months, something he wants to showcase in his bout against Sanchez.

“I am honored to be fighting on the Fury-Wilder III pay-per-view as the co-main event,” said Ajagba, who is managed by James Prince. “I have been patiently waiting for this opportunity to showcase my skills. My fans, and critics, can expect to see more jabs, head movement, footwork and power in both hands against Frank Sánchez. July 24 is going to be a special night for ‘The One and Only’ Efe Ajagba.”

Sanchez (18-0 1 NC, 13 KOs), also fought Brian Howard, dropping him three times en route to a knockout win in round 4 on November 7. Six weeks later, the 28-year-old knocked out Julian Fernandez in round 7.

In his last bout on May 8 on the Canelo Alvarez-Billy Joe Saunders super middleweight unification card, Sanchez, who is originally from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and now resides in Miami, Florida, defeated gatekeeper Nagy Aguilera by technical decision. 

“I look forward to fighting Efe Ajagba and coming out victorious,” said Sanchez, who is trained by Eddy Reynoso, who also trains Alvarez. “Boxing fans want to see the best fight the best. People say Efe Ajagba is avoided, and that’s exactly why I chose to fight him. Fans can expect a great fight between two undefeated heavyweights July 24.”

In what could be compelling clash from their first fight, Robert Helenius will square off against Adam Kownacki.

Both fighters squared off on March 7 of last year in Brooklyn, New York. Kownacki built an early lead until he was hurt early in round 4 by Helenius, who battered Kownacki throughout the round until the fight was stopped.

Helenius (30-3, 19 KOs), who is originally from Stockholm, Sweden and now resides in Mariehamn, Finland, resurrected a pro career that stalled after losing by knockout to Gerald Washington in July 2019. He has won back-to-back fights and five of his last six bouts.

“I’m looking forward to repeating my first performance against Kownacki on July 24,” said Helenius. “Boxing fans can expect another incredible fight with my hand raised in victory once again. All of Finland will be behind me when I show the world why I am most deserving of a world title fight. My only goal is to be world champion and unfortunately for Adam he stands in my way.”

Kownacki (20-1, 15 KOs) makes for action fights with his come-forward, aggressive style. The 32-year-old has wins over countryman Artur Szpilka, Washington, Charles Martin, Iago Kiladze and, most recently, Chris Arreola.

“I’m very excited to be back in the ring,” said Kownacki, who is originally from Lomza, Poland and now resides in Brooklyn, where he has a large following. “The pandemic made things hard for everyone, but things are getting back to normal. Being a part of an all-heavyweight pay-per-view like this feels great, and it’s a great thing for fans of our sport. This pay-per-view will be action-packed from top to bottom.

“I can’t wait to get my revenge against Robert Helenius. It’s been a long year waiting for the rematch, but I’ll be getting a victory on July 24. I feel like things will get back to normal and I will prove that I am one of the top heavyweights in the world.”

In the opening bout of the pay-per-view telecast, Jared Anderson (9-0, 9 KOs) of Toledo, Ohio will face Russia’s Vladimir Tereshkin (22-0-1, 12 KOs) in an eight-round bout. Anderson is one of Top Rank’s prized prospects.

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (Calif.) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing