By Cliff Rold
31-year old Nigerian Jr. Welterweight Olusegun Ajose (30-0, 14 KO) of London, U.K., stayed undefeated, scoring two knockdowns in round three of a convincing decision win over a game 26-year old Frenchman Ali Chebah (35-2, 28 KO) of Quebec, Canada on Friday night at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California.
Olusegun weighed in one pound below the division limit at 139 while Chebah came in spot on the limit. The referee was Marcos Rosales.
Chebah, almost three inches taller than the 5’7 Olusegun, showed respect for his southpaw foe at the opening bell, pawing with his left and leaning back. Olusegun was a bundle of energy, body shots loaded in the first minute, two heavy lead lefts landing to the face of Chebah before the round was half over. Chebah, relaxing, let loose with some thudding right hands and Chebah backed off just a little, both men posturing more than punching in the waning seconds before the bell.
With the tension of a spring begging to be uncoiled, Olusegun bounded out from the corner to start round two and the straight left was landing by a minute in. Chebah didn’t waver, coming forward and wading through the sting of Olusegun’s blows even as he continued to struggle to land his own.
The fiery attack of Olusegun paid big dividends in the third. A winging right, after a showboating deception from the left, cuffed the back of Chebah’s head and sent Chebah to a knee about a minute into the round. He got to his feet and Rosales counted out the mandatory eight. Action resumed and just moments later, a left to the body and another right that seemed to wing wide around the back of the head had Chebah on the floor again, his rear missing the canvas as his gloves kept him up. Chebah was fine and firing back, hurt worst in the final seconds of the third with a shot that didn’t put him down and enduring a ridiculing attack that included Olusegun holding his right behind his back before throwing it on a few occasions.
Olusegun staggered Chebah repeatedly in the fourth and Chebah kept digging in, keeping his feet, firing back in between Olusegun’s wild assaults. As the round wore on, Olusegun’s mouth began to open for air, his bombs away approach taking its toll on Olusegun’s stamina. Chebah still probably didn’t win the round but some nice rights late showed he was still well into the contest.
Round five was tough to score though Chebah seemed to have shaded it with better shots landed and a memorable attack early in the frame. The pace slowed considerably and while remaining intense appeared to have peaked in the fourth. Rounds six and seven saw Olusegun resume control of the contest, pacing himself and outboxing Chebah with movement and single big blows, Chebah frustrated by his inability to get his offense going until Olusegun stood still. When those moments came, Chebah got some decent work done but it was too sporadic.
In round eight, Olusegun effectively worked in short right hooks as Chebah got close and continued to land an overhand right launched from the waist. The rounds rolled on, a sameness to them as Olusegun stayed a step ahead in a competitive encounter where Chebah could never quite land the shot he needed to make a tough effort into a potentially winning one.
Opportunity almost knocked late in the eleventh round as the pressing of Chebah resulted in a tired Olusegun eating leather but never wearing the look of a man headed for the floor. And the floor was surely where Chebah needed him to be heading into the last three minutes. It wasn’t happening, Olusegun closing well if safely en route to judge’s cards favoring him by slightly too wide scores of 120-106 and matching 119-107 twice.
Regardless of the margins, the victory will be sweet for Olusegun. In theory, Olusegun’s win in what was a WBC eliminator means he is in line for a crack at Mexican legend Erik Morales. How that all works out in reality, given the WBC’s propensity to move their belt at 140 lbs. around without much regard to in-ring merit these days, remains to be seen.
The televised opener featured another undefeated fighter in the spotlight. 28-year old Lightweight Darley Perez (23-0, 18 KO), 133 ½, of San Pedro de Uraba, Colombia, laid a steady beating on 24-year old Oscar Meza (22-5, 18 KO), 136, of Mexico, forcing Meza to retire in the corner prior to the start of round seven. The referee was Tony Crebs.
The bout was televised in the U.S. on premium cable outlet Showtime as part of its ShoBox series, promoted by Gary Shaw Productions.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]