How Ronnie Shields is Building Efe Ajagba into a Champion



How Ronnie Shields is Building Efe Ajagba into a Champion

Unbeaten heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba (8-0, 7 KOs) is a year removed from competing with the top contenders in the division, and trainer Ronnie Shields expects him to become the heavyweight champion of the world by 2021.

“We’re not trying to rush him in any way,” said Shields.

Ajagba is set to face Amir Mansour on Saturday night on the undercard of the Shawn Porter vs. Yordenis Ugas PBC on Fox card at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.

Shields said it’s the perfect opponent coming at the right time in the 24-year-old Ajagba’s career.

“He’s got a tough fight on Saturday against Mansour,” said Shields. “He’s a veteran. He’s been around for a while.”

Shields hailed Ajagba…

Efe Ajaba might well be a future heavyweight champion.

… as one of the hardest working athletes he’s ever trained at the Plex boxing gym in Houston. The Nigerian-born heavyweight represented his home country in the 2016 Olympics and is one of the brightest heavyweight prospects in the sport. In fact, Ajagba was the PBC’s prospect of the year for 2018.

“We’ve been training for this fight for six weeks,” said Shields. “Efe is ready. He’s looking forward to the step-up fight.”

Shields didn’t mince words in regards to what he believes is Ajagba’s certain destiny. While he admitted his fighter was still learning the boxing trade and that the rest of the year would be spent trying to develop him into his full potential, he said Ajagba’s attitude was one of constant improvement and that coupled with his impressive natural attributes it would ultimately lead to him taking over the heavyweight division.

“He just wants to be the best he can possibly be,” said Shields. “In a couple of years, this guys is definitely going to be world champion.”

But don’t expect to see Ajagba’s flower to bloom in a hurry. Shields said the most important thing for Ajagba to focus on right now was honing his trade, and that his handlers were keenly aware the types of fights he needs to help him fully bloom.  

“You have to remember something. This guy is only 24 years old. We’re not in a rush to just go ahead and get him rated as a top contender right now. He’s still learning on the job.”

Part of Shields’ job, said the trainer, was making sure his fighter was put in the right conditions at the right times. What Shields doesn’t want is for Ajagba trying to do too much too soon. While the 46-year-old Mansour might not be the most dangerous opponent for a fighter as talented as Ajagba, the most important thing right now for the fighter was getting more rounds.

After all, Ajagba has only had to compete in 12 rounds so far through eight professional fights.

“I think what happens a lot in boxing is that guys start rushing so they can make that money right away, but then their careers don’t last long,” said Shields. “But Efe is still learning a lot of things that we’re teaching him and that will help him move forward when he fights the really, really big guys and the really good guys.”

The current heavyweight division is stacked with those right now, including top-flight titleholders and up-and-coming contenders. Unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, lineal champ Tyson Fury and WBC titleholder Deontay Wilder lead the pack at the top, while contenders Luis Ortiz, Dillian Whyte and Jarrell Miller are perhaps champions-in-waiting in the next tier. In addition, UK heavyweight prospects Joe Joyce and Daniel Dubois seemed poised to crash the party in the near future.

All of that makes the heavyweight scene one of the most interesting situations in all of boxing, and Shields expects Ajagba to start mowing them all down next year.

“In about a year, trust me, he’ll start fighting the top ten contenders.”

Kelsey McCarson covers boxing for NY Fights, The Sweet Science, and He also hosts a YouTube show about boxing with his wife, Rachel McCarson, called "Real Talk with Kelsey and Rachel".