By Keith Idec
LAS VEGAS – Ali Eren Demirezen demonstrated Saturday night that Efe Ajagba remains very much a work in progress.
The previously unbeaten Turkish heavyweight gave Ajagba the toughest fight of the Nigerian knockout artist’s two-year pro career. Ajagba went the distance for the first time in 11 professional fights and had difficulty dealing with Demirezen’s pressure at times in a fight that seemed more competitive than two of the three scorecards suggested.
All three judges – Adalaide Byrd (99-91), John McKaie (99-91) and Steve Weisfeld (97-93) – scored their 10-round fight for Ajagba (11-0, 9 KOs), who won a unanimous decision on the Manny Pacquiao-Keith Thurman undercard Saturday at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Turkey’s Demirezen (11-1, 10 KOs) made the typically aggressive Ajagba fight moving backward at times, landed plenty of clean power punches and took Ajagba’s vaunted power well. Ajagba appeared to tire toward the end of this battle between 2016 Olympians, which marked the first time the 25-year-old Ajagba went more than five rounds.
Before Saturday night, the only professional fight Ajagba hadn’t won by knockout was a first-round disqualification victory last August 24, when journeyman Curtis Harper infamously walked out of the ring just after the opening bell sounded in Minneapolis.
Demirezen nailed Ajagba with a right hand when there was just under a minute to go in the 10th and final round. Demirezen kept Ajagba on his back foot for much of that 10th round and continued taking Ajagba’s best shots well.
A left hook to the body by Ajagba affected Demirezen early in the ninth round. Ajagba landed several right hands later in the ninth.
Demirezen pressed the action throughout the eighth round and smothered many of his hard-hitting opponent’s punches.
Demirezen drilled Ajagba with a hard right hand 35 seconds into the seventh round. A combination by Demirezen wowed the crowd at 1:15 of the seventh, a round in which Demirezen was the more accurate, active fighter.
Demirezen’s overhand right landed to the side of Ajagba’s head approximately 1:15 into the sixth round. Ajagba and Demirezen spent most of the sixth round trading hard shots from the inside, as neither fighter wanted to give any ground.
Ajagba’s straight right hand slowed down Demirezen with 1:15 to go in the fifth round. A left hook to the body by Ajagba landed clean late in the fifth round.
By the start of the fourth round, Demirezen was the consistent aggressor and had made Ajagba uncomfortable. Ajagba had some success late in the fourth round, but he hadn’t landed anything that hurt Demirezen by that point in the fight.
A straight right hand by Ajagba stopped Demirezen in his tracks 30 seconds into the third round. Demirezen landed a right uppercut later in the third and moved Ajagba backward at times.
A solid left hook by Demirezen got Ajagba’s attention with about 30 seconds to go in the third round.
Demirezen tried to back up Ajagba at the start of the second round. Ajagba stood his ground, though, and continued firing his hard jab.
Demirezen caught Ajagba with a looping right hand right after the halfway point of the second round. Demirezen connected with another right hand several seconds later.
Demirezen continued connecting toward the end of the second round, in which he clearly landed the harder shots.
Demirezen landed a left hook just after the midway point of the first round. The shot drew a reaction from the crowd, but it didn’t affect Ajagba, who spent most of the first round pumping his stiff jab.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.