Efe Ajagba fared better against an unbeaten boxer-puncher Saturday night than the last time he fought one.
Two fights after his one-sided, unanimous-decision defeat to Frank Sanchez, Ajagba won what mostly amounted to a jabbing contest against previously undefeated Stephan Shaw by unanimous decision. Nigeria’s Ajagba was the aggressor for almost all 10 rounds, whereas Shaw seemed reluctant to engage with the hard-hitting heavyweight contender in a main event ESPN broadcast from Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.
Judges Eric Marlinski, John McKaie and Don Trella scored their uneventful encounter identically, 96-94 for Ajagba.
“I went back to the corner and they told me to let my hands go, keep throwing punches, my jab,” Ajagba said. “I controlled the fight, so that’s how I won the fight.”
According to CompuBox, Ajagba landed 33 more punches overall than Shaw (111-of-430 to 78-of-341). CompuBox credited Ajagba for landing more jabs (90-of-350 to 48-of-237) and Shaw for landing more power punches (30-of-104 to 21-of-80).
“He tried to land the big shots,” Ajagba said. “I watched him to see what he was going to do. He kept throwing the jab, using the jab more.”
Ajagba (17-1, 13 KOs), a 2016 Olympian, won a second straight fight since Sanchez beat him. Cuba’s Sanchez (21-0, 14 KOs) dropped Ajagba in the seventh round and comfortably out-pointed him on all three scorecards in a 10-rounder that was part of the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder pay-per-view undercard in October 2021 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Ajagba underwent surgery on both elbows following his loss to Sanchez. Healthier and more confident, he promised he would box better against Shaw than he did versus Sanchez.
St. Louis’ Shaw, meanwhile, was unable to capitalize on the biggest opportunity of his nine-year professional career.
Without hesitation, Shaw (18-1, 13 KOs, 1 NC) took this fight against Ajagba on less than one month’s notice. Ajagba was supposed to fight Colombian contender Oscar Rivas (28-1, 19 KOs), but Rivas suffered a detached retina while training last month.
Shaw was already training to battle Italian prospect Guido Vianello (10-1-1, 9 KOs), who was stopped due to a cut by Jonnie Rice (16-6-1, 11 KOs) in the seventh round of ESPN’s co-feature Saturday night.
By the time the 10th round of the main event began, it seemed clear that Ajagba and Shaw would go the distance.
Ajagba’s right hand knocked Shaw backward with just over a minute remaining in the 10th and final round.
Ajagba’s right hand backed Shaw into the ropes with 1:25 to go in the 10th round.
Shaw lunged forward and landed a left hook with just under 20 seconds to go in the ninth round. Just before the ninth round ended, Shaw landed a right hand from long range.
Shaw snuck in a left hook with just under 30 seconds on the clock in the eighth round.
Ajagba’s left landed with about 1:15 to go in the eighth round. Shaw’s power jab landed a little less than 20 seconds into the eighth round.
Shaw connected with a right hand with 1:15 to go in the seventh round. They mostly continued to trade jabs in the seventh round.
A power jab by Ajagba backed Shaw into the ropes 40 seconds into the sixth round. Shortly thereafter, Shaw landed a left hook while they were in the center of the ring.
Shaw was more aggressive at times in the fifth round, yet he still fought mostly off his back foot and avoided Ajagba’s power.
A sweeping left hook by Shaw connected with just over 35 seconds remaining in the fourth round. A right-left combination by Ajagba connected a minute into the fourth round.
Ajagba avoided Shaw’s right hand and quickly came back to land a right hand of his own with 1:35 to go in the third round.
Ajagba and Shaw slipped power punches in the second round, when they again focused mostly on pumping their jabs.
Ajagba and Shaw traded stiff jabs with just over 15 seconds to go in the first round. Otherwise, neither fighter landed consequential punches in the opening three minutes.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.