NEW YORK – As usual, Efe Ajagba won his last bout by knockout.
Nevertheless, the unbeaten Nigerian heavyweight couldn’t have been less satisfied with his performance against Iago Kiladze. The promising prospect suffered his first knockdown as an amateur or pro, and got sloppy while trying to finish off the experienced, resilient Kiladze.
“After the fight, I was so mad,” Ajagba told BoxingScene.com following a press conference Thursday at The Tillary hotel in Brooklyn. “I was not happy because my performance was terrible. It was terrible. I made a lot of big mistakes. So, for this fight Saturday night, I need to come back strong.”
The 25-year-old Ajagba (12-0, 10 KOs) will fight for the first time Saturday night since stopping Kiladze (26-5-1, 18 KOs) in the fifth round December 22 at Toyota Arena in Ontario, California. The 2016 Olympian is scheduled to meet Romania’s Razvan Cojanu in a 10-round bout at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
If he hurts the 6-feet-7½, 270-pound Cojanu (17-6, 9 KOs), who has suffered second-round knockout defeats to Luis Ortiz and Daniel Dubois within the past 18 months, the 6-feet-6, 240-pound Ajagba will take a more measured approach to trying to finish him.
When he wobbled Kiladze in the third round, Ajagba recklessly attempted to knock him out. A surprising right hand by Kiladze sent Ajagba flat on his back with 38 seconds to go in that round.
“I took a lot of punches, but the one I didn’t expect, that’s the one when I went down,” Ajagba said. “I didn’t see that punch. Any punch you see coming, you don’t feel it. But any punch you don’t see coming, that’s when you feel it.”
Ajagba recovered quickly, came back to drill Kiladze with a right hand that dropped him in the fifth round and unloaded several more power punches that made Kiladze’s trainer, Shadeed Suluki, throw in the towel later in the fifth.
“When I went down and I stood up, I didn’t know what happened,” Ajagba said. “I didn’t know where the punch came from. It was very quick. When he threw the punch, I wasn’t hurt. I was trying to finish him off. I was surprised. I was like, ‘What happened?’ But this is boxing.”
Ajagba-Cojanu will be the second of three fights FOX will broadcast Saturday night, starting at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
The opener of the tripleheader will feature Cuban heavyweight prospect Frank Sanchez (14-0, 11 KOs) in a 10-rounder against Philadelphia’s Joey Dawejko (20-7-4, 11 KOs). In the main event, Brooklyn’s Adam Kownacki (20-0, 15 KOs) will face Finland’s Robert Helenius (29-3, 18 KOs) in a 12-round WBA heavyweight elimination match.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.