Efe Ajagba moves on after Curtis Harper “walk out bout’’

Unbeaten heavyweight prospect talks about his bizarre PBC on FS1 win, and what his future holds.

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Ajagba vs Harper - Watch Video Highlights | August 24, 2018

Towering heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba received an appropriate pre-fight introduction from the ringside commentator Ray Flores at the Armory in Minneapolis on Friday.

“When that man, Efe Ajagba, fights, do not blink,” said Ray Flores of the 6-foot-6, 230-plus Nigerian. “Of his five fights, four of them have been done in the first round.”

His PBC on FS1 match against Curtis Harper was the swiftest. And Ajagba (6-0, 5 KOs) got the victory without laying a glove on Harper.

The win came after the two men touched gloves at the center of the ring, went back to their respective corners and waited for the bell to sound.

By the time Ajagba had taken his first of three steps toward the center of the ring, Harper already had pivoted away and begun exiting through the ropes. He rapidly walked out of the arena and into the locker room using the same entry ramp and sending shock waves through the fans packed inside the Armory.

“Wait — what?” said two-division champion Jermall Charlo, who worked as a ringside commentator. “I’ve never seen anything like this before.”

He was echoing the sentiments of everyone else who was in the arena and watching at home on FS1 and FOX Deportes.

Charlo works with trainer Ronnie Shields, who also trains the 24-year-old Ajagba in Houston.  

The 30-year-old Harper (13-6, 9 KOs) reportedly said he was upset over his payment for the bout. He wasn’t paid for the non-match and could face suspension pending a review by the Minnesota boxing commission. Ajagba was paid, but the disqualification victory deprived him the satisfaction of his sixth-straight stoppage win.

“I started walking toward him and saw him stepping through the ropes. I was shocked and surprised at first, thinking maybe it was a joke,” Ajagba said.

“(Seeing Harper) walk out of the (arena) and (down the runway), I asked Ronnie Shields, ‘What happened? Where is he going?’ I heard somebody say, ‘He ain’t coming back,’ and, ‘He’s not fighting.’”

I started walking toward him and saw him stepping through the ropes. I was shocked and surprised at first, thinking maybe it was a joke. Heavyweight prospect Efe Ajagba

Ajagba said he got a glimpse into Harper’s fragile psyche at Thursday’s weigh-in when Harper asked him to go lightly on him.

“At the weigh-in was when I figured he was scared. He walked toward me and said he had watched all of my fights and that he needed me to take it easy on him. But why would I take it easy? This is my life,” said Ajagba, a gold medalist in the 2015 African Games and a bronze medalist in 2014 Commonwealth Games.

“Four other opponents had pulled out because they didn’t want to fight me, so Harper was the [fifth.] But he signed the contract, and when you sign the contract, you’re getting paid a certain amount to fight, so you’re supposed to fight. Instead, he gets into the ring and then he walks out of the ring?”

Ajagba has been given a full week off from training to “rest his mind, body, refocus and return to his routine” according to Shields. Ajagba will resume his workouts next week with an eye toward fighting on the undercard in September.

Shields said Ajagba, whose nickname is “The One and Only” is accustom to putting away opponents quickly. Ajaba previous one-round victories had ended in 35, 89 and 91 seconds and 2:19 during his brief 13-month career.

“Efe Ajagba has the height, power, speed and instincts to be heavyweight champion of the world,” Shields said. “From his sparring, strength and conditioning training and the whole nine yards, Efe did for this fight what he’s done for every one of them so far, generally putting his best foot forward over about nine week’s worth of work because it’s his job to establish himself as the best professional fighter he can be.”

Ajagba has drawn comparisons to WBC heavyweight champion Deontay “The Bronze Bomber” Wilder, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalists who stands 6-foot-7 and has stopped 39 of his 40 opponents without a loss.

“Deontay Wilder’s manager is my manager (Shelly Finkel),” Ajagba said. “Right now, it’s Deontay Wilder’s time and not mine. I’ll be ready to fight for a world title maybe two years from now.”

Though the world seems to still be enthralled with the oddity of Harper’s “walk-out bout,” Ajagba is moving on.

“I’ve already stopped thinking about what happened and I’m fine,” Ajagba said. “On Monday, I’ll be ready to go back into training and get ready for my next fight.”

For a closer look at Efe Ajagba, check out his fighter page.

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