Efe Ajagba battles Guido Vianello while awaiting heavier stakes

Rio 2016 Olympics quarterfinalist, Efe Ajagba, at last, has a chance to remind the world of his potential when he meets Guido Vianello in a heavyweight challenge bout this weekend.

Heavyweight boxing has reached a point of attraction at which the stakes have rarely been higher, as Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk near their May 18 undisputed title fight and former champion Anthony Joshua hovers impressively, writes

“Heavyweights not named Fury, Usyk or Joshua are all marking time now,” Hall of Fame matchmaker, Bruce Trampler of Top Rank, said. “They need to be fighting and staying active for when the time comes.”

That’s how we’ll find Top Rank heavyweights Ajagba (19-1, 14 KOs) and Vianello (12-1-1, 10 KOs) on Saturday night – in the ESPN-televised co-main event to the Jared Anderson-Ryad Merhy heavyweight main event at American Bank Arena in Corpus Christi, Texas.

At age 29, Vianello senses that the time is now to strengthen his position in the four sanctioning bodies’ rankings, as Usyk, 37, Fury, 35, and Joshua, 34, occupy themselves with their elite-level matches and move closer to retirement age.

“Guido wanted to take a shot at a name, and Efe is in that position like every other top-10 guy, saying, ‘What else do I have to do?’” Trampler said. “You’re not going to be getting a bite at the Big Apple for a while.”

In Ajagba, also 29, Vianello faces an imposing Nigerian currently ranked number four in the WBC, number nine in the IBF and number 11 by the WBO.

“Guido let it be known he wanted to step up and fight a top-10 guy,” Trampler said. “He didn’t ask for a win or a sure win. He’s got his career to worry about.
“So, we gave him a shot at someone important, and a win by Guido puts him closer to the top.”

The 6-foot-6 Vianello, a former Italian Olympian from Rome, started 7-0 in his first 18 months as a pro before a disappointing 2020 draw against Kingsley Ibeh in the Top Rank bubble and a January 2023 loss to Jonathan Rice, in which he sustained a sixth-round cut near the eye and the referee sent the bout to scorecards in the seventh. Since then, Vianello has won twice, most recently posting a first-round knockout in February.

Should Vianello defeat Ajagba, Trampler said it’s possible Jared Anderson (16-0, 15 KOs) might be his next opponent. Ajagba, for his part, can’t fight Anderson for now because they’re promotional teammates.

Ajagba is interested in elevating his ranking while knowing anything could happen among the fragmented sanctioning bodies given the Fury-Usyk rematch clause and the possibility that Joshua emerges as a title-fight participant who may need an opponent.

Possessing an 85-inch reach, Ajagba is especially fearsome when he dons his stocking cap.
Yet Trampler likens him to former heavyweight champions, Sonny Liston and Joe Louis, who put fear into their foes inside the ring but were actually pleasant to chat with in social circles.

“You can’t help but see Efe at times and think, ‘I don’t want to meet up with him in an alley,’” Trampler said. “But if you’ve ever met him, he’s just so nice – someone who’s prideful about being a sportsman and an athlete.”

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