Nigerian heavyweight Ajagba hungry for Rice

Nigeria’s heavyweight boxing prospect Efe “The One and Only” Ajagba will hope to keep his winning streak intact when he faces veteran Jonnie Rice in a 10-round clash as the co-feature to the Jose Pedraza-Javier Molina junior welterweight main event at the MGM Grand Las Vegas on Saturday 19 September. The 6ft 6in knockout artist has a fearsome record of 13 wins from 13 fights with 11 knockouts.

The fight will be his first since March, a 9th round knockout of Razvan Cojanu in Brooklyn. It will also be his first under a new management, promotion and training team.

The Rio 2016 Olympian who is based in Stafford in Texas, USA, signed a promotional deal with Top Rank this summer, coming shortly after teaming up with highly influential boxing manager James Prince. Ajagba also changed from previous head trainer Ronnie Shields to new coach Kay Koroma.

“I didn’t feel I was at a championship level, which is why I changed my trainer,” Ajagba said.

Koroma is urging Ajagba to box and to no longer be hung up on his power.
In that regard, he compared him to long-reigning former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko.

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“When Klitschko finally learned how to use his power behind his boxing, that’s when he really took off and things got so much better for him,” Koroma said.

“Muhammad Ali was great with his power, but he used it wisely. He knew how to box and that set up his power. He just didn’t come out using power right away. Efe’s learning to hide it behind his boxing. That’s when he’s really going to show power. The basic power is there, but when he uses it with his boxing is when you’ll see a difference.”

The 26-year-old, who is known as “The One and Only”, joins a loaded Top Rank heavyweight stable as part of a trio of 2016 Olympians that includes France’s 2016 Olympic Gold medalist Tony Yoka, Italy’s Guido Vianello, along with American prospect Jared ‘Big Baby’ Anderson and lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury of Manchester, England.

“I’m excited to be back again doing what I love,” Ajagba said. “The only disappointment is that my (first) fight will not have fans in attendance. I really feed off of the fans, they motivate me and give me energy in the ring.”

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“But of course, this is what it takes to fight (these days), so I will be ready. And the fans not being in attendance, means that they will be watching at home. They will be pleased with what they see this weekend.”

His opponent Rice (13-5-1, 9KOs) suffered a 10th round stoppage at the hands of Australia’s Demsey McKean (18-0, 12KOs) in his last fight, on the same day as Ajagba’s previous contest though on the other side of the world in Queensland, Australia. Prior to the loss, Rice had won three straight, all taking place in Tijuana. Saturday’s bout will mark his first in the United States since September 2018.

Koroma described Rice as a mover, which makes him happy because he’ll get to see how Ajagba acts under duress when an opponent isn’t standing frozen in front of him.

“We want to break him down and use the ring and cut the ring off,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see if he reverts to the old Efe or if he’ll stay with the program and stick to what we have been working on.”

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Ajagba insists he’s going to stick with the program no matter how things go because he likes what he sees from Koroma’s plan, and he believes it’s the best for him.

His goal, he said, is simple, and Koroma is there to help him achieve it.

“I want to be the heavyweight champion of the world,” he said. “I know I can achieve [that goal], but I have to do the right things.”

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