I’d never seen Efe Ajagba fight before Tuesday night. The Nigerian press had gone to town over this giant lad that officials of the Nigeria Boxing Federation had confidently predicted will win an Olympic medal. Ajagba had fed the frenzy of that ‘prophetic utterance’ by casually dismantling Nigel Paul of Trinidad and Tobago within seconds in his first bout of the Men’s Super-Heavy Weight contest. On Tuesday, he faced off against Ivan Dychko of Kazakhstan in the Quarter Finals, but by the end of the First Round, it was clear that boxing officials had either lied to Nigerians, or are so detached from world boxing, that they grossly overrated their man. The flaws in Ajagba’s game were many:
Ajagba is a slugger, not a boxer. Traditional boxing experts called the sport “a sweet science” and that fact is well underlined in amateur and Olympic boxing where the emphasis is on skill. There is little science in Ajagba’s style, and it is ridiculous for anyone to think he will stroll through an Olympic tournament without his limitations being exposed.
He is slow, even for a Super Heavyweight. The rule of the thumb of boxing is: the heavier the weight, the slower they move. Featherweights move way faster than Cruiserweights and they, in turn, are a bit quicker than heavyweights. This means that Super Heavyweights will naturally be the slowest of the Divisions. But Ajagba has very little movement, lethargic even. Dychko, as slow as he was, almost danced rings around him.
Ajagba telegraphed his punches. And for a slugger looking for a knock-out (he was never going to win on points), that is ‘suicide’. The Kazakh simply blocked or slipped the murderous shots, niftily scoring points by landing his own ‘soft’ shots.
Finally, he wasn’t ready. I have no idea how long he has been boxing, but apart from his murderous punches, he didn’t look ready for an Olympic outing. He looked a little lost and disoriented in the ring after the first round, when it was clear he would not get a knock out. There was no plan B.
Ajagba may yet turn out to be a fine fighter. Just as a tall person is considered promising in basketball (you can’t teach height), so is a puncher valuable in boxing. But his handlers and the Boxing Federation will do well to now properly nurture him. If he can get a sponsor, the Gold Medal is within his reach at the next Olympics.