Week two of the 2023 “season” is upon us! Last week, everyone went 3-1, though it’s arguable three of us should be 4-0. This week, we’re picking just one fight, Top Rank’s first main event of 2023, coming on Saturday night!
Who ya got for Ajagba vs Shaw? Here’s who we got!
Scott Christ (3-1)
Good matchmaking if not anything approaching a big fight. This is Stephan Shaw’s chance to get in the heavyweight race for real, and for Efe Ajagba, it’s a chance to show if he’s improved on some of the things that badly tripped him up against Frank Sanchez.
Shaw ain’t Sanchez, or at least I’m pretty sure of that right now, but I don’t think you have to be as good as Sanchez to beat the Ajagba we saw against Sanchez. It will, I believe, require some tightrope walking from Shaw, but I think he’ll survive some rockier moments and get a W here on controversial cards. If Bob Arum remembers the fight existed in a few weeks, he might even call it a robbery in some interview down the line or threaten to never go back to New York again. Shaw SD-10
Wil Esco (3-1)For me this fight is really about whether or not Efe Ajagba has really learned the lessons, or is even able to apply the lessons learned from fighting Frank Sanchez. Ajagba may be a hard hitter but his craft is severely lacking, and I think Stephan Shaw’s faster hands and better combination punching is going to have him frozen in spots while he tries to defend and while looking to land the big one.
If Shaw can keep from getting too comfortable after throwing his shots, and doesn’t hang in the pocket too long so as to give Ajaba an opening for a fight-ending punch, I think he can outpoint Ajagba on the cards. Ajagba is to slow and stiff to truly rise to the elite in my opinion, but he does pack a wallop if you slip up. I don’t think Shaw slips up here, so I’m going with him on points. Shaw UD-10
John Hansen (3-1)I like Ajagba. I like him in general, and I like him for this fight. It’s easy to see every flaw and failure in a loss, especially a first loss, and for that information to dominate the perception of a fighter afterwards. After Ajagba’s loss to Frank Sanchez, some of that beautiful, tantalizing potential that lives in every loss-column-zero went up in smoke. It’s still there for Stephen Shaw, though in a fainter bouquet than what Ajagba once carried.
Shaw seems to be the betting favorite here, which surprises me a little bit, though he’s certainly no slouch. But, I don’t have any clear proof he’s Frank Sanchez quality. Ajagba is taller, longer, stronger, and he’s been tested at that fringe Top 10 heavyweight level. Obviously, he didn’t pass that test, but Shaw has never taken it at all. It’s an intriguing fight, and a fascinating, if not glamorous, matchmaking effort. Gotta pick someone, though. Ajagba TKO-8
Patrick Stumberg (3-1)Ajagba’s 0% win rate against fast, athletic, undefeated 6’4” combination punchers should give Shaw plenty of hope. In all seriousness, Shaw does have a number of tools that have proven effective against Ajagba in the past. The big man still isn’t a particularly great mover or particularly tight with his punches. Shaw is missing a key component, though, and that’s lateral movement. He oftentimes prefers to plant his feet and let the flurries fly, a habit that makes him easier to corner than he should be. Unlike the Frank Sanchez debacle, Ajagba will be able to properly sit down on his shots and bring his considerable power advantage to bear.
Shaw will hold his own for as long as it lasts, but he’s a much easier target than Sanchez, and he can only stay away from the big right hand for so long. Ajagba TKO-5