Ajagba – Shaw headline on January 14th on ESPN

By Will Arons - 01/09/2023 - Comments

Undefeated heavyweight Stephan Shaw (18-0, 13 KOs) will step in as a replacement for the injured Oscar Rivas to face Efe Ajagba (16-1, 13 KOs) in a 10-round headliner on the Top Rank-promoted show on Saturday, January 14th at the Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. The event beings at 10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT and will be shown LIVE on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+.

Rivas suffered an eye injury during training for the fight and had to be replaced. Had that fight taken place, the 6’6″ Ajagba would have had a tremendous size advantage over Rivas, who fights at cruiserweight.

The Lou DiBella-promoted Stephan Shaw is a four-time U.S. national amateur champion with excellent boxing skills, power, and size.

DiBella is already planning on stepping Shaw up against fringe contender Jared Anderson in 2023 if he successfully defeats Ajagba. Shaw vs. Anderson will be a war from start to finish.

The nine-year professional Shaw, 30, has recent wins over Rydell Booker, Bernardo Marquez, and Joey Dawejko. DiBella has brought Shaw along slowly in his career. Hence, the best name on his near decade-long pro career is Booker.

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The 28-year-old Ajagba is coming off a second round knockout win against Jozsef Darmos last summer.

Before that, Ajagba was shockingly beaten by Frank Sanchez by a lopsided 10 round unanimous decision in October 2021.

If Ajagba loses to Shaw, Top Rank might need to start thinking about giving up on the big-punching Nigerian heavyweight because he’s got to be able to beat fighters at this level for him to have any kind of future in the division.

In the co-feature bout, 2016 U.S. Olympic super heavyweight Guido Vianello (9-0-1, 7 KOs) fights Johnathan Rice (15-6-1, 10 KOs) in a 10 round fight that is sure to have fireworks.

Vianello is a straight-ahead type of heavyweight with very little defensive skills, but he makes up for it with his heavy hands. For his part, Rice is a big puncher as well, with a porous defense, which should make it fun against Vianello. Both guys are equally flawed, but Vianello has the advantage due to his youth.

Perhaps the most appealing fight on the card is between super featherweights Adam ‘BlueNose’ Lopez (16-3, 6 KOs) and Abraham Nova (21-1, 15 KOs) in a 10 round fight.

On paper, Nova should win this fight, as he’s got the better pedigree and has done more with his career, but you can’t count Lopez out. He dropped Oscar Valdez in the second round of their fight in 2019.

“Stephan Shaw stepped up and has a tough task against one of the division’s biggest punchers in Efe Ajagba,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum.

“We’re pleased that Guido will remain on the card against a formidable opponent in ­Jonnie Rice. This will be a fantastic heavyweight doubleheader at Turning Stone.”