Unbeaten heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba believes he has what it takes to dethrone world champion Anthony Joshua in a bout that could help “AJ” realise his dream of fighting in Africa.
Ajagba (13-0, 11 KOs) holds the distinction of being the owner of the world’s fastest boxing victory. It took place on Aug. 24, 2018, when opponent Curtis Harper stepped out of the ring as soon as the opening bell sounded as part of a pay protest, triggering a one-second disqualification.
However the impressive Nigerian boxer has stopped 11 of his other 12 opponents so far as a professional, taking the “0” of the one man (Ali Eren Demirezen) who managed to last the distance.
And while Joshua has been defeated once by Andy Ruiz Jr, he has since avenged that loss. Ajagba, on the other hand, feels he knows the key to definitively end the WBA, IBF, and WBO champion’s time on top.
“Skill would beat Joshua, not power,” Ajagba explained to Sky Sports in an interview this week.
“Me and Joshua both have the power. But skills control the power, and I have more skills.
“The best weapon of Joshua’s is the left hook and right uppercut. He doesn’t have a good jab.”
With Joshua’s Nigerian heritage, a continued rise through the ranks for Ajagba could present the current champion with the scenario he has wanted for a long time: a high-profile and marketable fight staged in Africa.
“The people would support Joshua because he is the heavyweight champ,” continued Ajagba with regards to facing AJ one day.
“I respect him. I respect everything about him — his talent and his potential. He is a humble guy.
“People are saying that I talk Joshua down. But I don’t want to do that.
“Joshua is from Nigeria, so he is a part of Africa, too.”
Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman in “The Rumble in the Jungle” in Zaire in 1974. A similar showdown in the 2020s comes with its fair share of financial and logistic hurdles, but the emergence of a challenger like Ajagba can only benefit Joshua’s dream.
“Absolutely in the future,” Ajagba replied, on facing Joshua on African soil. “It would be perfect. Two Nigerian warriors fighting in a title fight.”
He continued: “I discovered boxing in Nigeria. I would fight on the streets and I always won, so I started boxing.
“Fighting on the streets is different to boxing. I had natural power. I wasn’t fighting a boxer, I would fight bodybuilders.
“I wasn’t a boxer, he wasn’t a boxer. So I hit them, they fell. Boxing is different because fighters train every day to get in the ring.
“When I started boxing they taught me foundations — how to move my legs, how to throw combinations.”
Ajagba was Nigeria’s only boxer at the 2016 Olympics in Rio and was eliminated by Ivan Dychko of Kazakhstan, who is now 9-0 as a pro himself.
He was scouted at the Olympics and brought to Houston, Texas, a city with a large Nigerian immigrant population, to base his professional career.
And after winning all of his first 13, he will now compete under Bob Arum’s Top Rank umbrella going forward. He has changed trainers to Kay Koroma, who also works with Shakur Stevenson and Jarrett Hurd, and now bases himself out of Virginia.
Ajagba is hoping to make his Top Rank debut later this month, and Arum said: “He has immense physical tools and a great work ethic. I have the utmost confidence that we’re looking at a future heavyweight champion.”