Efe Ajagba has dazzled many followers of boxing with his knack for knocking out his opponent. At the 11th African Games, all his fights except the final bout, which won him the gold, did not last the distance. He got the fans into wild jubilation when he secured a first round Knock out in his opening bout over Kenya’s Daniel Shisia.
He continued in that fashion all through the Games, winning the gold medal at the expense of his Egyptian opponent, who withstood some battering in the hands of the Nigerian. The Warri-born Ajagba is the typical heavyweight boxer. He is tall and has a longer reach than most of his opponents, and his greatest weapon is the power he packs in his punches.
For an athlete who is doing so well in boxing, many would have thought that he has been in boxing all his life.
However, Ajaba started boxing in 2011 when he dumped football on the advice of his friends who saw great potential in him.
He told NationSport: “I started boxing in 2011 in Delta State and represented the state at the 2012 National Sport Festival (NSF) in Lagos where I won silver medal. I must thank my friends for giving me the advice to do boxing because as a footballer, I may still be struggling to get public attention.
At the NSF in Lagos, Ajagba didn’t display naivety expected from someone who just got into a sports a year before his first tournament and this endeared him to the boxing fans, who chanted his name whenever he was on the ring.
With football completely out of the picture, Ajaba concentrated on his boxing career and his silver-winning feat at the NSF earned him an invitation to the boxing team preparing for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014. In camp, he was faced with a herculean task: he had to outshine the boxer who defeated him at the NSF to have a chance of making it to the Commonwealth Games. Ajagba would not let the chance slip as he battled his way onto the final list of boxers to Glasgow.
Arriving in Glasgow, Ajagba was more determined to go home with a medal and he set his target on the move by securing a knockout in his opening bout of the game, an accomplishment, he noted, boosted the confidence of other boxers in the team.
“It was very nice winning my first bout in Glasgow. It was a good morale booster and also gave confidence to the entire boxing team. In the quarter final, I beat a South African, but lost the semi final to an Australian by a point to settle for bronze.
With that exploit, Ajagba came to Congo Brazzaville as the clear favourite to pick the gold in his weight category. In Congo, he told his coaches to put their mind at rest, assuring them that he would pick the gold. He stuck to his plans judiciously, knocking out his opponent one after the other on his way to glory.
“When we got here, I told my coaches that I was going for the gold and that they should not panic. All I needed was their encouragement and tutelage and I got both in abundance. I must admit that it helped me dominate my weight category.”
Having missed the World Championship qualifiers in Morocco, Ajagba is still hopeful that he would be able to display his skill at that tournament if the words of the president of the Nigeria Boxing Federation (NBF), Kenneth Minima are taken into consideration. “The President has told us that we still have the chance to take part in the World Championship and if that happens, I will take the opportunity with both hands.
According to the pugilist, the next step for him is the Rio Olympic Games, which comes up next year in Brazil.
He stated that he hopes to pick up a medal and continue his movement towards the zenith. The Olympic is the biggest stage and I hope to win a medal in Brazil.”
He is aware of the fact that he needs to work hard to achieve that aim and he has promised to train hard with the support of the coaches. “My experience at the Commonwealth Games has shown me that a lot of preparation and the right mentality have to be in place to win a medal. You can be good, but if the mentality is not right, it will be difficult to make it. So, what I am doing right now is to get into the right condition for the Olympic qualifiers.
“Like I pointed out earlier, the coaches are instrumental to getting me to this level and I will appreciate it if they can do a better job so that I can become an Olympic and world champion.
To enable him display his ability at Rio, Ajagba has to be at the qualifier in Cameroun where he is sure of picking a ticket. “It will be a tough qualifier, but my form should get me a ticket to the Olympics. Nothing good comes easy so I have to fight hard to be in Rio.
He called on the authorities to provide the necessary equipment and training facilities for the boxers so that they can be at par (if not better) than their counterparts allover the world. “Becoming a world champion is not an easy task. All elements must be in place to get to such height. And we can only get there if we have the equipment to boost our performances.
“Just as we are planning to become the best boxing nation, others are also doing the same, so it gets down to which country prepares better. And I hope that we will continue to get the exposure that will take us to greater height.”
When asked to mention those who had contributed to his career, he stated: “I must thank my friends for believing in me, for spotting the potential in me. I must also thank my family members who have stood by me, while all the coaches I have worked with have been my greatest career influence.”