Efe Ajagba and Stephan Shaw went the ten-round distance on Saturday. This is the kindest analysis NYFights.com can offer in a recap of this anticipated heavyweight matchup.
The results hardly matter, but it's our job. Ajagba of Las Vegas (17-1, 13 KOs) won the decision over Shaw of St. Louis (18-1, 13 KOs), who suffered his first loss. Judges scored the fight the same, 96-94 on all cards.
“He tried to land the big shot. I was watching him to see what he was going to do,” said Ajagba after the fight, who said Shaw's jab kept him at a careful distance.
In a year with so much potential in the heavyweight division of meaningful matchups in boxing's glamour division, Ajagba and Shaw delivered a small fight, a cautious cat-and-mouse affair with little to inspire fans to believe either would pose a challenge for the men among the top ten.
Ajagba fought behind his jab, content to be patient and outwork Shaw. It's proof he can beat a boxer, which he failed to do in losing to Cuban heavyweight Frank Sanchez. Shaw followed the scripts written for him by Ajagba, holding a high guard in respect for Ajagba's power. But it wasn't a power puncher's fight. Shaw will watch the fight later and regret he didn't press the action. He would have regretted going out on his shield less than a loss due to avoiding risk.
Shaw weathered a handful of power punches well. It's a headscratcher why it didn't give Shaw more confidence to press the action, at least in the final round. Credit to Ajagba for staying the course to get the win with no damage done.
Ajagba landed 111 of 430 punches (26%), 90 of them jabs. Shaw landed 78 of 341 punches (23%) – both far below their CompuBox averages.
When Ajagba was asked whether he was ready for the elite names in the division, Ajagba hedged. “It's tough, you know. I'll go back to the gym and start working on my boxing skills, start working hard.” American Jared Anderson doesn't have anything to worry about.
Shaw has only suffered a single loss, but he will need to take a hard look at his performance and figure out how to restart his career. It's possible; ask Abraham Nova and Jonnie Rice.
Vianello vs. Rice Fight Results: Rice Ruled TKO Winner
The improbable career of American heavyweight Jonnie Rice of Las Vegas wrote another chapter Saturday night, but it barely avoided being a horror story. Rice took the fight with Italian Olympian Guido Vianello of Italy on three weeks' notice when Stephan Shaw was elevated to the main event.
Both men were shaking off jitters and ring rust for the first half of the fight. Vianello outworked Rice, doubling up on landed punches. Rice would need to pull off something dramatic to win. It came in a solid straight right hand flush to Vianello's face in round six, snapping his head back. The punch opened a nasty gash in the worst possible place over the eye of Vianello. Vianello finished the round with the cut gushing as his corner tried to stop the bleeding.
As the seventh round got underway, with the cut growing worse, the ringside physician stopped the action. A cut from a legal punch gives a TKO win to Rice. But to the shock of all watching, referee Benjy Esteves ruled the cut from a headbutt, telling the judges to score the round.
The New York State Athletic Commission doesn't use replay, but the fight took place under the jurisdiction of the Oneida Indian Nation Gaming Commission, and it does use replay. With some persuasion from Top Rank's Carl Moretti, Esteves viewed ESPN's video of the punch. The correct ruling was made, handing Rice (16-6-1, 10 KOs) yet another improbable victory over Vianello (10-1-1, 9 KOs). Hat tip to Dan Gustafson of Manlius, New York, who's been the Commission's Executive Director since 2010.
Nova Blasts Past Loss, Beats Lopez
With careers on the line for both men, the superior strength of Abraham “Super” Nova of Albany (22-1, 15 KOs) was the difference. He resurrected his future behind two knockdowns against Adam “Blu Nose” Lopez of Glendale (16-4, 6 KOs) for a pivotal win for the popular Puerto Rican fighter. Scores were 98-90 X 2 and 97-91.
The cards don't truly reflect how close the fight was until the knockdowns in rounds five and six. The second knockdown was a questionable call by referee Mark Nelson, but it didn't affect the outcome. Lopez recovered enough to remain dangerous, but the burst of confidence helped Nova keep pressing the action to get the win on his 29th birthday. Nova relishes the thought of a rematch against the man who took his perfect record, Robeisy Ramirez.
Undercard Results: Bruce Carrington, Dante Benjamin Impress
Haven Brady Jr. of Albany, Georgia (9-0, 4 KOs) chewed a lot of grit from Ruben Cervera of Colombia (13-4, 11 KOs) but put in a winning performance. Scores for the eight-round bout were 80-72, 79-73, and 78-74. Brady missed the lightweight limit for the fight. His flight was delayed due to this week's FAA computer problems, but It wasn't the first time. Brady is now training with Bozy Ennis, father of Jaron “Boots” Ennis. Time to add a nutritionist to the team.
Bryce Mills of Liverpool, New York (11-1, 4 KOs) sent his devoted hometown fans in the seats at Turning Stone Resort happy with a win over Margarito Hernandez (3-4-1) of Wapato, Washington. The 21-year-old welterweight and former kickboxing champion showed a few nerves early. Still, he composed himself quickly and demonstrated quality offensive skills, along with the ability to take a punch from the determined Hernandez.
Brian Norman Jr. of Atlanta (23-0, 19 KOs) got a stiff test from Rodrigo Damian Coria of Argentina (10-5, 2 KOs) but passed it with an eighth-round knockdown to seal a decision victory in his Top Rank debut and remain undefeated. Norman came storming out of the corner at the opening bell, blasting away at Coria. Coria was hurt but refused to yield early. The pair settled down to a solid action fight, with Coria making Norman Jr. pay several times for his aggression. Scores were 79-73 and 77-74 twice. Norman Jr. is trained by his father and managed by former Main Events matchmaker Jolene Mizzone of Fighters First.
Featherweight phenom Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington of Brooklyn (6-0, 3 KOs) was taken the distance by veteran Juan Antonio Lopez of Dallas (17-13-1, 7 KOs). Carrington worked behind an authoritative jab and smart offense for the scorecard shutout over six rounds, 60-54 X 3. Lopez kept Carrington honest but couldn't mount much of a threat.
Dante Benjamin Jr. of Cleveland (5-0, 3 KOs) dealt Emmanueal Austin of New Orleans (6-1, 6 KOS) his first loss in one round of their scheduled six-round light heavyweight bout to open the card. Benjamin Jr., nicknamed “Free Smoke” because “anyone can get it,” wobbled Austin with a body shot, scored a knockdown, then unloaded on Austin, forcing referee Mark Nelson to stop the bout at 2:50 of the first round.
Flashy junior featherweight Floyd “Cash Flow” Diaz was pulled from the card Saturday morning due to a non-COVID illness. No further details were given. Here's hoping for a swift recovery and a new assignment soon.