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Efe Ajagba interview: “I Can Beat Anthony Joshua With My Skills”

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“Skill would beat Joshua, not power”

Efe Ajagba is an unbeaten Nigerian heavyweight
Anthony Joshua’s long-held dream of fighting in Africa could be aided by the rising threat of another Nigerian heavyweight who plans to knock him off his perch.

Efe Ajagba has already plotted how he would dethrone Joshua, whose pride for his African heritage is worn in the form of a tattoo on his arm.

“The people would support Joshua because he is the heavyweight champ,” Ajagba tells Sky Sports but he is quickly establishing himself as a dangerous contender with vicious KO power who could become the perfect foil for Joshua to stage a fight against in Nigeria.

“Skill would beat Joshua, not power,” said the undefeated Ajagba. “Me and Joshua both have the power. But skills control the power.
“I have more skills.”

Surely Joshua, an Olympic gold medallist and two-time heavyweight champion, has his fair share of skill?

“I don’t think so,” Ajagba says. “The best weapon of Joshua’s is the left hook and right uppercut. He doesn’t have a good jab.
“I respect him. He is the heavyweight champion. I respect everything about him – his talent and his potential. He is a humble guy.
“People are saying that I talk Joshua down. But I don’t want to do that.
“Joshua is from Nigeria so he is a part of Africa, too.”
Joshua was inspired to reclaim his IBF, WBA and WBO titles from Andy Ruiz Jr last year after a trip to the Makoko slum in Nigeria, the African nation where his parents are from.
“They told me: ‘Make sure you go get those belts back’,” Joshua told Sky Sports at the time. “That is massively inspiring.”

He hopes to one day emulate Muhammad Ali by fighting in Africa but it is logistically difficult despite the clear interest. Ali beat George Foreman in ‘the Rumble in the Jungle’ in Zaire in 1974.

The emergence of a challenger like Ajagba can only benefit Joshua’s dream.
“Absolutely in the future,” Ajagba says of facing Joshua on African soil. “It would be perfect. Two Nigerian warriors fighting in a title fight.”
Heavyweight prospects are defined by their power but Ajagba, more than most, is carving out a reputation as a wrecking ball.

He is unbeaten in 13 and the only opponent to go the distance was Ali Eren Demirezen. That fight was Ajagba’s hardest examination so far – Demirezen had a better record, unbeaten in 10, before they met.
Curiously he plays down his knockout power insisting it is nothing special.

“I don’t think so. It’s not about me,” he says. “It’s about the way I throw my punch and how my opponent feels it.
“It’s not about power. Power comes from how you throw the punch, and how you land the punch. Move your legs into the punch, that’s where the power is.”

Ajagba is the youngest son of a boxer who initially discouraged him from following the same path. But trouble became too easy to find for a young and feisty Ajagba.

“I discovered boxing in Nigeria. I would fight on the streets and I always won,” he says. “So I started boxing.
“Fighting on the streets is different to boxing. I had natural power. I wasn’t fighting a boxer, I would fight bodybuilders. I wasn’t a boxer, he wasn’t a boxer. So I hit them, they fell. Boxing is different because fighters train everyday to get in the ring.”
At first he did not enjoy the discipline that came with boxing.
“No, not immediately. I had to take my time and think about it.
“When I started boxing they taught me foundations – how to move my legs, how to throw combinations.”

He was Nigeria’s only boxing representative at the 2016 Olympics and was eliminated by Ivan Dychko of Kazakhstan, who is now 9-0 as a pro but with none of the clamour attached to Ajagba’s rise.
He was scouted at the Olympics and brought to Houston, Texas, a city with a large Nigerian immigrant population to base his professional career.

Was it a hard transition?

“Not really. The environment is very different. I saw a different life when I came to America, a different community.
“The environment in America is beautiful. Nigeria is beautiful too, but America is a different culture.”

He worked with Ronnie Shields, who had previously trained Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield, and the opponents soon began to fall. Seven of his first eight fights were finished in a single round.
One of those remains among the strangest results in boxing history, although Ajagba does not find it funny.

His 2018 win against Curtis Harper was officially clocked at one second. The opening bell rang, Harper calmly exited the ring and walked backstage, never to be seen again.
The clip went viral, viewed millions of times in the days afterwards. It emerged Harper was protesting against his own promoter.
“I was mad and confused,” Ajagba says. “I didn’t know what was going on. Why did he walk out of the ring”

Anthony Joshua: only skills can beat him, says Ajagba


“I didn’t see him after the fight. But before the weigh-in, his girlfriend came to me and said: ‘Are you fighting Curtis Harper?’
“I didn’t know why she was asking me questions.
“She said: ‘You have the talent, you have the skills’.
“She came to me to ask me to take it easy in the fight!
“I can’t do that.
“Why did she ask me to take it easy?
“So when Curtis Harper walked out of the ring, I was mad and confused.”

The next stage of Ajagba’s development will be promoted by Bob Arum’s Top Rank. He has changed trainers to Kay Koroma, who also works with Shakur Stevenson and Jarrett Hurd, meaning he will be based out of Virginia.
Aged just 26 and with all of his fights coming in the USA, he is still a prospect being carefully managed through the heavyweight division.

There are issues to iron out – last December he was floored by Iago Kiladze, an opponent on a four-fight winless run, but recovered to avoid catastrophe. Earlier this year he needed nine rounds to get rid of Razvan Cojanu, who was beaten inside two rounds by Daniel Dubois.

Ajagba is hoping to make his Top Rank debut in September and promoter Bob Arum said: “He has immense physical tools and a great work ethic. I have the utmost confidence that we’re looking at a future heavyweight champion.”

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AFCON: South Africa to Meet Nigeria in the Semi-final After Penalty Win Over Cape Verde

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Jubilant Bafana Bafana after the penalty win over Cape Verde

South Africa survived a Cape Verde’s scare to win on penalties and set up a semi-final clash with Nigeria at the ongoing African Cup of Nations in Cote d’Ivoire

Goalkeeper Ronwen Williams was the hero as South Africa beat Cape Verde 5-3 on penalties following a goalless 120 minutes to advance to the TotalEnergies CAF Africa Cup of Nations semi-finals.

After a tense last eight clash ended 0-0 at the Charles Konan Banny Stadium in Yamoussoukro on Saturday night, Williams remarkably saved four spot-kicks in the shootout to send Bafana Bafana through.

Both sides started brightly in an open first half, but stellar defending and top-class goalkeeping from Williams and Cape Verde’s Vozinha kept the game goalless at the break.

The second half followed a similar pattern as the teams traded blows in search of the breakthrough. But a combination of desperation and brilliant defending saw numerous chances go begging.

Cape Verde almost stole it in added time when Gelson Tavares pounced on a deep ball only to smash his shot off the bar with Williams getting a hand to it. 0-0 after 90 minutes meant extra time.

The additional 30 minutes brought more chances, with South Africa’s Fagrie Lakay forcing a superb save from Vozinha. But the deadlock remained to send the quarter-final into penalties.

After an impressive four penalty saves by Williams, Bafana Bafana secured their place in the semi-finals for the first time since 2000 where they will meet Nigeria.

Post-match reactions:

Hugo Bruce – South African coach

“When we got to the penalty shootout, it was a special thing for the players, because during training they were scoring them. When we have a goalkeeper who stops 4 penalty kicks, this is not luck but a lot of hard work.

Not many people in South Africa believed in this team, but we believed in it, and the players believed in themselves as well. Reaching the semi-finals is in itself a good thing for South African football.

There was a lot of pressure in the match. Everyone wanted to qualify. This match was unlike the previous ones. We did not show the same performance as we had in previous matches.

The semi-final match will be different against Nigeria, which has good players like Lookman. We will not lose focus. The players will be in good condition, so we need to rest and recover to start our preparation”.

Bobista – Cape Verde coach

“Congratulations to South African. We wanted to win the match, but this is football. In my opinion, we had several chances to win this match. We have a good team, and we also faced a good competitor. We had several chances to kill the match, but we were not able to.

We had a good journey, and we also deserved to be in the semi-finals. Our people will be happy with what we presented in the competition.

We were the best in some phases of this match, and you know in such competitions, when you fail to score it will be complicated, and as for penalty kicks, sometimes there is luck.

The players who took the penalties are the best in our team, but when you are tired it is difficult. I am proud of our players, they showed their character.” (CAFonline)

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SHOCK FOR LIVERPOOL FANS, FOOTBALL WORLD AS JURGEN KLOPP STEPS OUT

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Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has confirmed he will step down as the club’s manager at the end of the season – almost nine years since taking over from Brendan Rodgers

Jurgen Klopp has explained why he will leave Liverpool at the end of the season, citing his departure down to “running out of energy”.

The 56-year-old replaced Brendan Rodgers as the club’s new manager in October 2015 and has since transformed the Reds’ fortunes, winning the Champions League, Premier League, FA Cup, Carabao Cup and Club World Cup during his time at Liverpool. However, the German has now confirmed he will leave Anfield in the summer.

Explaining his reasons behind his exit, Klopp said: “It is that I am, how can I say it, running out of energy. I have no problem now, obviously, I knew it already for longer that I will have to announce it at one point, but I am absolutely fine now. I know that I cannot do the job again and again and again and again.

“After the years we had together and after all the time we spent together and after all the things we went through together, the respect grew for you, the love grew for you and the least I owe you is the truth – and that is the truth.”
The news of Klopp’s departure has shocked fans across the world, while Jamie Carragher is ex-Liverpool players who have been left stunned by the announcement. He said on Twitter: “This news was always going to be a body blow to the club whenever it came. I just thought it would be another few years away. What a manager, what a man, let’s go out with a bang Jurgen!”

Liverpool could still win four trophies before the end of the season. The Reds booked their place in the Carabao Cup final after beating Fulham 3-2 on aggregate, while Klopp’s side face Norwich in the FA Cup fourth round this weekend. They are also in the Europa League last 16 and sit five points clear at the top of the Premier League with a serious possibility of winning the top-flight this season.

“I can understand that it’s a shock for a lot of people in this moment, when you hear it for the first time, but obviously I can explain it – or at least try to explain it,” Klopp also said when he announced his departure.

“I love absolutely everything about this club, I love everything about the city, I love everything about our supporters, I love the team, I love the staff. I love everything. But that I still take this decision shows you that I am convinced it is the one I have to take.”

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Arsenal Bundled Out Of FA Cup After 2:0 Defeat To Liverpool

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Liverpool compounded Arsenal’s woes with a 2-0 defeat at the Emirates Stadium to send the Gunners out of the FA Cup in the third round.

Mikel Arteta’s men have now failed to win their last four matches in all competitions, which has put their title hopes in jeopardy.

The Gunners missed numerous goalscoring chances against a Liverpool side without the services of Mohammed Salah and Virgil Van Dijk.

The hosts dominated the first half with Martin Odegaard hitting the crossbar before Kai Havertz and Reiss Nelson missed good opportunities to break the deadlock.

Alexander-Arnold and Diogo Jota also hit the cross bar for Liverpool in the first half as both sides failed to cancel out each other to end it goalless.

Liverpool scored two late goals to book their place in the fourth round of the competition.

Alexander-Arnold’s free-kick bounced in off Jakub Kiwior’s head for an own goal to put the Reds in the lead.

Luis Diaz put the icing on the cake with an emphatic finish to condemn Arsenal to another defeat.

Liverpool Players Celebrating the win against Arsenal


Arsenal manager, admitted that his side are not finishing off their chances.

He said, “Well, the performance was there and the amount of chances too,”

“We just have to win the game, but we lost it, and we are not capitalising. To win games, we need to capitalise.

“When you are better than the best team in Europe and you generate that amount of chances. I have not seen a team do it against them like we have done it.

“It is not enough. The reality is that it is not enough.”

The Spaniard has urged his team to be more efficient ahead of a busy schedule.

“Listen [do I say] play worse than Liverpool, be worse and we will win the game? When my team plays with this confidence what can I do? I am still behind them 100 per cent.

“It is what it is and we have to continue to play the same way and be more efficient,” he added.

Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp hailed his side fighting spirit after a tough clash at the Emirates.

He said, “In the end, we came through. I’m really happy we could win this game. Arsenal could have won it without a doubt. We finished it off, and it spoke for the character of the boys,”

“I’m super proud. It was a super difficult draw. Maybe the most difficult we could have got.
“It wasn’t an easy game to enjoy in the first half. We changed a bit at half-time.

“We were really in the game in the second half. We scored the goals and fought for 95 minutes.”

Up next for Arsenal is a Premier League clash against Crystal Palace on January 20, while Liverpool have a date with Fulham in the EFL Cup semi final first leg on Wednesday.

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