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Prospect Ajagba ready for step-up fight with Mansour

Efe Ajagba is taking on a seasoned pro for the first time on Saturday.

Premier Boxing Champions - Weigh-in Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

This Saturday night’s PBC on FOX event will feature a heavyweight fight between Nigerian prospect Efe Ajagba and American veteran Amir Mansour, an interesting crossroads bout and a step-up outing for Ajagba.

Ajagba (8-0, 7 KO) represented his home country at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, scoring a knockout of Trinidad and Tobago’s Nigel Paul in the round of 16, before losing to the more experienced Ivan Dychko of Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals. He turned pro in July 2017, and while he’s been a wrecking ball thus far, he’s still most famous for being the man that Curtis Harper turned from and left the ring at the opening bell last August.

The 24-year-old Ajagba, now training under Ronnie Shields in Houston, has won two fights since then, both by first round stoppage. But Mansour (23-3-1, 16 KO) represents a legitimate step up — while the 46-year-old Mansour is past his best days, he’s the first really legit pro fighter that Ajagba has faced thus far, too.

Ajagba says he’s excited for the challenge, and that he respects what Mansour is capable of doing in the ring:

“Amir is very quick, very fast. I’ve got to back him up with my jab, to split him up with my jab. I cannot allow him to come close to me. If he does, I won’t be able to throw my right hand. But I’m a different guy than everybody else he’s fought. Everything that he’s been able to do in the ring, he’s not going to be able to do against me”

Mansour is coming off of a third round knockout loss to Filip Hrgovic last September, traveling to Croatia for that fight. Mansour says that he took it because he needed the payday, and didn’t really have time to get properly prepared.

But even still, Hrgovic is a top prospect. He won a bronze medal at Rio 2016, and is a well-seasoned amateur fighter who was winning amateur tournaments at age 16, whereas Ajagba didn’t even take up the sport at all until he was 17. Ajagba is a bit more raw yet as a fighter compared to someone like Hrgovic — that doesn’t make him and his right hand and less dangerous, but a seasoned pro like Mansour may be able to do some things against Ajagba that Hrgovic would have sniffed out.

“(Ajagba) lacks experience. But in his corner (Shields) is one of the best. I know I’m the B-side. But I still believe I can be champ — if given the chance.”

To an outsider, it would appear, frankly, that Mansour’s dream of winning a world title is all but dead. Hrgovic put him away in short order. But that doesn’t mean he can’t still fight, or be a problem for a prospect still learning on the job. Mansour has still beaten guys like Travis Kauffman, Fred Kassi, and Joey Dawejko in recent years, and he gave Dominic Breazeale a hard fight in 2016, putting Breazeale — then himself a raw, developing prospect, not totally unlike Ajagba now — on the canvas.

Ajagba has the size, power, and youth, and he’s learning from one of the best. Mansour has the experience and maybe still the skills advantage. It’s the sort of test that every prospect has to pass if they’re going to keep climbing the ladder. We’ll see if Ajagba can do it on Saturday.

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