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Efe Ajagba and Jonnie Rice Bring Home the Money at Turning Stone

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  • Efe Ajagba and Jonnie Rice Bring Home the Money at Turning Stone

    Click image for larger version  Name:	Efe-.PNG Views:	0 Size:	868.9 KB ID:	22489

    By Arne K. Lang

    The temperature dipped into the low teens tonight in frigid Verona, New York, but things were heated inside the Event Center of the Turning Stone Casino Resort where Top Rank presented an eight-bout card topped by a heavyweight doubleheader. Granted, the heat emanating from the ring wasn't all that intense. There were scattered boos throughout the two featured bouts.

    In the main event, Efe Ajagba took advantage of his superior reach to jab his way to a unanimous decision over Stephan Shaw, advancing his record to 17-1 (13). All three judges had it 96-94 for the former Olympian from Nigeria, scores that may have been a tad generous to the previously undefeated Shaw, now 18-1, who never fought with a sense of urgency.

    Shaw, a third-generation boxer from St. Louis, was originally set to face Guido Vianello in the co-main, but was bumped into the main event when Ajagba’s original opponent Oscar Rivas had to pull out after suffering a detached retina in sparring.

    A late switch in the odds resulted in Shaw going to post a small favorite. He said before the fight that he was more than willing to fight Jared Anderson next and may get his wish as the victorious Ajagba moves on to a more winnable assignment.


    Jonnie Rice, once thought to be an irredeemable gatekeeper, continued his late career surge, winning his third straight fight with a one-punch TKO of previously undefeated Guido Vianello (10-1-1) to bring his record to 16-6-1 (11 KOs). The bout was stopped early in the seventh round on the advice of the ringside physician.

    Rice, who turns 36 next month, had fought an uninspired fight and was well-behind on the scorecards when he tagged his Italian adversary with a big overhand right late in the sixth frame. The punch opened a very bad cut over Vianello’s left eye.

    When the fight was stopped, referee Benjy Estevez indicated the cut was caused by a head clash, in which case the bout would have gone to the scorecards. However, Estevez overruled himself after viewing the ESPN replay and Rice, who went to post a 5/4 favorite despite taking the bout on three weeks’ notice, was fairly judged the winner.


    Albany, New York junior lightweight Abraham Nova (22-1,15 KOs) celebrated his 29th birthday with a 10-round unanimous decision over Glendale, California’s Adam Lopez (16-4). The son of the late Hector Lopez, an Olympic silver medalist and two-time world title challenger, Adam Lopez has never been in a bad fight and tonight was no exception. However, he was knocked down twice in the middle rounds, the second a controversial knockdown when he was wrestled to the canvas, and he lacked the power to make up the deficit. The judges had it 98-90 and 97-91 twice.

    This was a good win for Nova who returned to the 130-round weight class after suffering a harsh defeat at the hands of rising featherweight contender Robeisy Ramirez.

    Other Bouts

    Twenty-one-year-old Georgia lightweight Haven Brady Jr. who has been training in Philadelphia with Boots Ennis, advanced to 9-0 (4) at the expense of Colombia’s Ruben Cervera (13-4). Cervera landed the best punch of the fight, a sweeping overhand right near the end of round six that buckled Brady’s knees, but Brady won comprehensively: 80-72, 79-73, and 78-74.

    Bryce Mills, a 21-year-old junior welterweight, won a comprehensive 6-round decision over Wapato, Washington import Margarito Hernandez. It was the 11th win in 12 starts for Mills who trains in nearby Syracuse and had the crowd in his corner. Hernandez: 3-4-1.

    In his ESPN debut, an 8-rounder, Georgia welterweight Brian Norman Jr (23-0, 19 KOs) was extended the distance by teak-tough Argentine southpaw Rodrigo Damian Coria (10-5).

    Norman came out like gangbusters and it appeared that Coria wouldn’t survive the opening round, but the Argentine, who rarely took a backward step, survived the barrage and made things interesting until the final round when Norman put him on the canvas, eliminating any suspense when the decision was rendered. The judges had it 77-74 twice and 79-72.

    In a 6-round affair, Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington, a former U.S. Olympic Trials champion from the gritty neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn, moved to 7-0 (3) with a unanimous decision over Dallas trial horse Juan Antonio Lopez (17-13-1). Carrington won every round but Lopez, who has repeatedly been matched tough, was never in danger.

    In the ESPN+ opener, 20-year-old Cleveland light heavyweight Dante Benjamin Jr improved to 5-0 (3) with a first-round stoppage of Emmanueal Austin (6-1) of New Orleans. Benjamin staggered Austin with an overhand right before putting him down with a combo. Austin beat the count, but was being pummeled on the ropes when referee Mark Nelson interceded. The official time was 2:50 of the opening round.

    Austin had stopped all six of his previous opponents in the opening round, but against soft opposition including three bouts in Colombia.

    Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images
    Last edited by AcidArne; 01-14-2023, 11:11 PM.