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If boxing bouts were won solely by the fighter’s determination and ability to withstand jabs, Efe Ajagba would have zoomed into the semifinals of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games superheavyweight class on Tuesday night.
The Nigerian, who is the least prepared fighter at the Riocentro Pavillion Six, venue of the boxing event, gave his all in his quarterfinal clash with Kazakhstan’s Ivan Dychko, but he lost in a unanimous decision, 9-10, 9-10, 10-9 to the world number two rated pugilist.
Tuesday’s bout was as difficult as they come, but the fearless Ajagba, who had only one coach and a doctor in his ringside, stood his ground, matching his opponent toe to toe. His undoing was perhaps his inability to knock out the European, as well as his inferior reach.
It is said in boxing that when all the elements are matched and found to be the same, certain extraneous considerations are used to separate the fighters.The Kazakhstani is well represented in the AIBA (amateur boxing’s world body) by his compatriots, while the Nigerian had none. Some analysts also posited that as the world’s number two fighter, Ajagba needed to knock out or beat Dychko clearly and beyond reasonable doubt to be awarded the fight.
That he could not do because the experienced Kazakhstani used his longer reach to score points and also wade off Ajagba, whose famed right hand could not find its range.
At the end of the three rounds, the judges scored the fight 10-9, 10-9, 9-10 in favour of Dychko. Although the crowd booed the decision, it did not stop Dychko from marching on to the semifinals, where he is guaranteed at least a bronze medal.
Speaking on his ill-fated bid for Olympic glory, Ajagba lamented the neglect he suffered in the hands of his compatriots, who were supposed to aid his preparation and participation at this Olympics. He is not wallowing in self pity though, as he believes he gave the bid his best efforts.
“I tried so much and my coach did his best to ensure that we ended the battle in glory. He did everything for me and even fasted for me. But he is the only coach I have here and there were just little he could do in certain situations.
“This is my first Olympics and I did not have any other boxer to cover my back. I did not have anybody to train with, so I relied on my strength and what we saw of my opponents in their previous fights to prepare for the fight.”
Ajagba regretted that he failed to reward his numerous fans back home with a medal, saying the odds were stacked against him.“The guy is the world number two and in a contest with a nobody like me, the referees will always give him the benefit of the doubt. He has a longer reach and every time I threw a jab he blocked it easily. That was why I went for the knock out, but he evaded me with his constant movement,” he said.
Ajagba revealed that he is quitting amateur boxing for a professional life, saying that the frustrations boxers in Nigeria face would ruin his career if he did not quit now.“You cannot compare me, who trained for less than three months, with some of my opponents who had three years support to prepare for the Olympics.
“I was only allowed a coach here, while in a normal situation I should have had four coaches with different duties. I did not have a sparring partner and even when I came here I saw a different type of punching bag from what I am used to in Nigeria. In a situation like that, it is a difficult task for one to attempt to beat better prepared fighters,’’ he said.
Ajagba revealed that he would be turning professional immediately, adding that he has already been contracted by boxing promoters in Canada.
“I have tried so much as an amateur but the frustration is too much for me to continue like this. I just have to move on,” he added.