Efe Ajagba and Stephan Shaw had a chance to impress tonight in an ESPN main event, but neither heavyweight really did, with Ajagba winning a unanimous decision over 10 rounds in an indisputably boring affair.
Ajagba got the win on scores of 96-94 from all three judges. We unofficially scored it 98-92 for Ajagba, but hey, maybe that gave Ajagba too much credit, or maybe Shaw not enough? It doesn’t matter, the real judges had their say.
Speaking of the official cards, it turns out that Ajagba needed to close strong to secure this one, as he was down 58-56 on all three cards after six rounds. He won the remainder of the rounds on each card:
Efe needed to close strong and he did. Here are the cards: pic.twitter.com/0N2vGdJdBI— Evan Korn (@KornerMan44) January 15, 2023
Whether Ajagba (17-1, 13 KO) truly “closed strong” or simply nicked those four rounds is a matter of some debate, but I felt he’d controlled the tempo pretty well after the fourth, and Shaw (18-1, 13 KO) just didn’t do enough. It’s not that Ajagba ever did anything special here — and neither of them came out looking like a real heavyweight contender — but Shaw just didn’t do enough to convince the judges.
Ajagba, 28, will look to keep this momentum, for whatever it’s worth, going as 2023 now opens up for him. For the 30-year-old Shaw, I thought he’d be kicking himself even if the judges had it scored like I did, because there seemed to be so many chances for him to do more, but with this having turned out to be a very winnable fight on the official cards, I think he might really regret some of the tactical decisions made in this fight. This was very winnable.
Ajagba vs Shaw highlights
There weren’t any. I’m sorry. I’m not being funny, either, Top Rank straight up posted nothing during the fight. Usually they will even if a fight was bad. This had no highlights. We’ll plug some in later, maybe, if they actually post any to YouTube or whatever.
Ajagba won this snoozer with his jab, landing an avg. of 9 of 35 per round vs. Shaw, who landed an average of 8 of 34 punches per round. 138 of their combined 189 landed punches were jabs. Neither fighter landed more than 6 power punches in any round. pic.twitter.com/Zj1raVrUDJ— CompuBox (@CompuBox) January 15, 2023
Undercard highlights and results
- Jonnie Rice TKO-7 Guido Vianello: This was a whole mess, further revealing the general incompetence of boxing governing bodies even while one made the tough call to simply get it right. Referee Benjy Esteves stopped this in round seven on the advice of the ringside physician, as Vianello (10-1-1, 9 KO) suffered a bad cut in round six. Esteves tried to send it to the cards, claiming the cut came from a clash of heads. It very, very clearly did not; it was a punch from Rice (16-6-1, 11 KO) that caused the cut. Eventually, Top Rank’s Carl Moretti got in the ring to tell Esteves his call was wrong. A commission official — and this is the Oneida tribe commission in Verona, not the New York State Athletic Commission — agreed and asked Esteves to look at the ESPN replay. Now, the thing is, the Oneida commission, like most, doesn’t actually sanction replay officially. BUT! They can kinda do what they want. And it was the right thing to do, technically, even if it is a mess. To be clear, Vianello is Top Rank’s guy, not Rice, and Moretti fought for the right decision. This whole thing was a mess, but the right guy did get justice. His punch caused the cut. Clear as day. It’s a third straight solid win for Rice, as he continues to derail hopefuls. And yes, it was a bad cut:
- Abraham Nova UD-10 Adam Lopez: We expected to get a good fight, we got a good fight. Scores were 97-91, 98-90, and 98-90. I had it 95-93 for Nova. Cards seem wide at a glance, maybe, but two of the rounds I gave to Lopez I marked as swings, if I’d tipped those the other way it’s 97-91 Nova, so maybe they’re just fine. Nova (22-1, 15 KO) makes the successful move back up to 130 after a loss to Robeisy Ramirez last year at 126, bouncing back with a solid win. Lopez (16-4, 6 KO) takes another tough, hard-fought loss; he’s a limited fighter, yes, but he’s also always fun to watch. This dude is a welcome addition to any card and I’ll be glad to see him next time out, same with Nova. Referee Mark Nelson did score two knockdowns; one was fair, one was a bad call, but they didn’t impact the cards, because Nova clearly won both of those rounds either way. They were 10-8s, yeah, but they’d have been 10-9s regardless, so Lopez wouldn’t have gained enough.
- Haven Brady Jr UD-8 Ruben Cervera: Scores were 78-74, 79-73, and 80-72. The shutout card is pretty autopilot-y; Cervera definitely won one round here, maybe two, but also not more than that. A solid test for Brady (9-0, 4 KO) against a tough dude who has been in with good fighters and never embarrasses himself in the process. Cervera (13-4, 11 KO) will keep getting calls to check prospects. Brady is still just 21, is a prospect, and we’ll see how he continues to develop this year. That’s the short-term way to think about it, take it a year at a time, fight-by-fight, hope he makes strides.
- Bryce Mills UD-6 Margarito Hernandez: Look, being real, Mills (11-1, 4 KO) was here because he’s a local fighter out of Syracuse who sold some tickets. There’s nothing wrong with that. Top Rank do it frequently for cards and it’s smart. Is there big upside in him? I didn’t see real evidence of that. But he was in shape, came to fight, and won clean on cards of 60-54 across the board. He’s 21 and his one loss was a split decision in a year and change ago, and this was his fifth straight win. Maybe he becomes someone we see again. Maybe we never see him again unless Top Rank run Verona and need to move some seats in the future.
- Brian Norman Jr UD-8 Rodrigo Coria: This was Norman’s first fight in over a year, and the first fight he’s had that anyone has seen other than a small live audience in nearly three. He’s still only 22 years old, and like his last ShoBox appearance, there’s a lot to consider with him. Yes, he has skills — a lot about him passes the eye test, and those aspects of his game got him the win here on scores of 77-74, 77-74, and 79-72. I like his mindset, too, he has some fire, and after a rough couple of rounds that made this fight a bit closer, he came out blazing in the final round and got a knockdown to lock the W, going to 23-0 (19 KO) against a tough dude in Coria (10-5, 2 KO). But he also makes mistakes, and he just has a rawness to his game you don’t love to see after 23 pro fights, even with him still being really young. There are reasons to like his upside and reasons to doubt it. But with Top Rank, he should be matched properly — whether that means being safe or putting him in a sink-or-swim if they see it that way — and given the chance to fight regularly and develop.
- Bruce Carrington UD-6 Juan Antonio Lopez: On paper, Lopez (17-13-1, 7 KO) looked like a smart opponent choice for Carrington, and it turned out that way. Yes, Carrington won all six rounds to go to 6-0 (3 KO), and no, they weren’t very difficult for him, but Lopez doesn’t make things super easy and he doesn’t go away the first time he gets hit. He’s a guy who knows how to go rounds and he gave Carrington rounds and some decent looks. Valuable experience for the prospect.
- Dante Benjamin Jr TKO-1 Emmanueal Austin: Austin came in having never gotten into a second round, winning six fights via first round stoppage. Soft opposition, though, and Benjamin (5-0, 3 KO) exposed that badly here. Austin throws with purpose, but it was clear very quickly that he was going to walk onto something, and he did. He got dropped, he continued, they were fighting, referee Mark Nelson called for a break, Benjamin punched Austin in the face twice instead, Nelson decided that was fine, actually, and then he stopped the fight at 2:50.