Unbeaten KO artist Efe Ajagba signs deal with Top Rank, making promoter Bob Arum rich in heavyweights

·Combat columnist
·3-min read

For years, the heavyweight division in boxing was controlled almost exclusively by promoter Don King. But these days, the pendulum is swinging a bit toward King’s long-time rival, Bob Arum of Top Rank.

Arum promotes the lineal heavyweight champion, Tyson Fury, and on Wednesday announced the signing of a potential future contender to that throne, unbeaten knockout artist Efe Ajagba. Ajagba, who is 13-0 with 11 KOs, signed a managerial contract with James Prince after being bought out of his previous deals with Richard Schaefer, his promoter, and Shelly Finkel, his manager.

“We’ve talked a lot about the talented young heavyweights coming up behind Fury, [Deontay] Wilder and [Anthony] Joshua and he is right there in that group,” Top Rank president Todd duBoef said.

ONTARIO, CALIFORNIA - DECEMBER 21: Efe Ajagba of Nigeria defeats Iago Kiladze of Georgia in the heavyweight division at Toyota Arena on December 21, 2019 in Ontario, California. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Unbeaten heavyweight Efe Ajagba (L) signed a promotional deal with Top Rank. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Ajagba joins a group of heavyweights that includes Fury, 2016 Olympic gold medalist Tony Yoka; Guido Vianello; and Jared “The Real Big Baby” Anderson. That group is a combined 62-0-1 with 50 KOs.

In addition, Top Rank has veterans Oscar Rivas, who is 26-1 with 18 KOs and Carlos Takam, who is 39-5-1 with 28 KOs.

Ajagba asked for his release from Schaefer and Finkel and bought his way out of the contract. After hiring Prince as his manager, he hired Kay Koroma to train him. Koroma was an assistant coach for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team and works with several other Top Rank fighters.

Prince praised the job that Ronnie Shields did training Ajagba and said he expects Koroma to push him to another level.

“I think he is a really great prospect and has a lot of room to grow,” Prince told Yahoo Sports. “He kind of reminds me of [Basketball Hall of Famer] Hakeem Olajuwon in terms of his athletic ability and the things he can do. He has a lot of room to grow as a fighter and I think Coach Kay is really going to be instrumental in his growth.

“I’d like to see him improve his defense. Ronnie Shields did a great job building the foundation and I think Coach Kay can take it to the next level.”

Arum raved about Ajagba and said that it made sense to sign him given the interest people have in heavyweights. He said it was hammered home to him, if he didn’t already know it before, when he began to promote Fury.

Heavyweights appeal even to those who aren’t rabid boxing fans.

“No matter how much you tell them, ‘Hey, these little guys in the lower weights are more exciting and make better fights,’ the people love the [expletive] heavyweights,” Arum told Yahoo Sports. “There is nothing wrong with stocking up on some talented young heavyweights and putting them out there. I mean, these guys all have a lot of ability and we can put a lot of good fights on with them.”

French Olympic champion Tony Yoka gestures as he arrives prior to his heavyweight fight against German Michael Wallisch on September 28, 2019 in Nantes, western France. (Photo by Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP)        (Photo credit should read SEBASTIEN SALOM-GOMIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Tony Yoka, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, is one of several promising heavyweights with Top Rank. (Photo by SEBASTIEN SALOM-GOMIS/AFP via Getty Images)

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