Heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba (17-1, 13 KOs) beat Stephan Shaw (18-1, 13 KOs) in a boring 10 round unanimous decision on Saturday night in their main event fight on a Top Rank-promoted card at the Turning Stone in Verona, New York.
The bigger & stronger 2016 Olympian Ajagba was the busier fighter of the two, pushing the action all night and doing just a little bit more than the ultra-cautious 30-year-old Shaw, who showed no sense of urgency during the contest.
Shaw moved frequently around the ring and would occasionally stand perfectly still, waiting for Ajagba to throw something so he could counter it. Unfortunately, Shaw failed to counter often enough, and when he did, he often came up short due to his lack of reach.
Ajagba showed vulnerability on the inside and at medium distance, but Shaw failed to take advantage of this. Shaw is an excellent combination puncher and he normally unloads on his opponents at close range, but tonight, he wasn’t doing anything on the inside. Had he let his hands go, he could have gotten the better of Ajagba, who showed that he’s not capable of getting leverage on his power shots in close.
The fans at ringside booed the lack of action, letting both fighters know their displeasure at the boring efforts from both. Unfortunately, the booing failed to motivate Ajagba & Shaw to be more willing to let their hands go. In fairness to Ajagba, he’s a diamond in the rough, and still learning the trade, so it wasn’t a shock that he was holding back.
Additionally, Ajagba recently lost a one-sided 10 round decision to Frank Sanchez, and that experience has impacted him.
Ajagba was unusually conservative tonight, not unloading repeated right hand power shots like he usually does. One reason for that is that Ajagba was getting countered frequently by Shaw in the first quarter of the fight, and that resulted in the Nigerian fighter being reluctant to load up on his right hands.
The scores were 96-94, 96-94, and 96-94.
Shaw looked like he mentally gave up after the sixth round, and focused on not getting hit in rounds seven through ten.
This performance from both fighters showed that they lack the ability to compete with the top-tier heavyweights. Ajagba has shown no improvement from his loss to Frank Sanchez, and he’ll be easy work for anyone ranked in the top 15.
As for Shaw, he’s too timid to be counted on to beat any of the contenders. His promoter Lou Dibella got it wrong with his belief that this guy has the goods to go somewhere in the division.
If Shaw can’t beat a one-dimensional heavyweight like Ajagba, he’s got no chance against the top 15 contenders. Ajagba isn’t ranked in the top 15 for good reason. He lacks talent.
Top Rank will need to make a decision on what they want to do with Ajagba because he’s 28, and he’s not ready to be put in against any contender.
One of the ESPN commentators mentioned that Joe Joyce would be a good option for Ajagba now. This writer disagrees. Putting Ajagba in with Joyce would likely wreck his career because he would be easy work for the British heavyweight.
Jonnie Rice defeats Guido Vianello
Previously unbeaten heavyweight prospect Guido Vianello (10-1-1, 9 KOs) suffered his first career defeat, losing to journeyman Jonnie Rice (16-6-1, 11 KOs) by seventh round cut stoppage.
Vianello was cut over his left eye in the sixth round from a right-hand punch from Rice. The bout was halted a round later after the ringside doctor examined the injury and told the referee that the fight needed to be halted.
Referee Benjy Esteves surprisingly, was ready to have the fight go to the scorecards because he thought Vianello’s cut was caused by a headbutt. Fortunately, the commission spoke to Esteves and let him know that the cut was from a punch.
After Esteves watched a video replay of the punch that caused the injury, he changed his ruling from the cut being caused by a headbutt to that of a punch, which gave Rice the victory.
At the time of the stoppage, Vianello was well ahead of the contest by the scores 59-55, 59-55, and 58-56.
Like the main event, the Vianello vs. Rice fight was dull and lacked action from the fighters. The fans sporadically booed the fighters, trying to motivate them, but it failed to work.