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Jared Anderson Defeats Ryad Merhy, Efe Ajagba Scrapes Past Opponent In Firecracker Match

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Jared Anderson (L) punching Ryad Merhy (R) during their heavyweight contest at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, on April 13th, 2024. (Photo by Angela Piazza/Caller-Times)

Top Rank held a fight card last Saturday that saw their heavyweight stars Efe Ajagba and Jared Anderson both overcome their opponents, though with vastly different results. Anderson main evented alongside Ryad Merhy at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, on April 13th.

American heavyweight contender Jared Anderson (17-0, 15 KO’s) is still firmly on the path of potentially vying for a world title, and has moved up marginally in esteem and ranking following a dominant and easy unanimous decision (UD) win over Belgian fighter Ryad Merhy (32-3, 26 KO’s)―whose best win thus far is a split-decision victory over Olympic gold medalist Tony Yoka (11-3, 9 KO’s).

Jared Anderson won all the ten rounds he and Merhy were set to compete in, evident by all three judges’ scorecards of 100-90. The American heavyweight also retained his WBC USA and WBO International titles to likely further see him move up both sanctioning bodies’ rankings, however slightly.

While Jared Anderson did retain his unbeaten record, his KO ratio has once more dipped after last failing to put away substitute opponent Charles Martin (29-4-1, 26 KO’s) two matches prior. While his win confirmed Anderson to have the potential to contend in the future, the allure of his abilities seems to have definitively waned after failing to knock out or stop Ryad Merhy.

However, Anderson’s victory was a much-needed event following several months of out-of-ring issues that has kept the young heavyweight in the limelight for entirely the wrong reasons. It is unknown what Top Rank’s intentions for Jared Anderson are in regards to world title opportunities, but a future match with fellow Top Rank fighter Efe Ajagba (20-1, 14 KO’s) should not be an issue given both. Ajagba fought on the same night and card as Anderson, but the promotion’s unwillingness to pit the two heavyweights against each other is reflective of Top Rank’s reluctance to see Anderson challenge himself against top-rated heavyweights; such as Daniel Dubois (20-2, 19 KO’s) or Frank Sanchez (24-0, 17 KO’s) .

A fight between Anderson and Dubois in actuality would be easy to make, with UK-based Queensberry Promotions representing Dubois, and Top Rank currently in league with Frank Warren’s Queensberry. Despite the connection between the two promotional outfits, a fight between the two heavyweights―who are similar in age and standing in the division, does not appear to be a high priority for either promotion; despite the attractiveness and guaranteed competitive benefits such a fight could bring.

Efe Ajagba’s match with Italian opponent Guido Vianello (12-2-1, 10 KO’s) was not a dominant outing for either fighter, but it did prove to be likely the most exciting fight on the card as the two heavyweights slugged it out over a course of ten rounds. Ajagba barely won by split-decision with scores of 94-96, and 96-94 twice. With the victory not doing Ajagba’s own pedigree as a heavyweight any justice, doubts have now crept in as to what he can actually achieve in the division.

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Efe Ajagba (L) and Guido Vianello (R) during their heavyweight contest at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, on April 13th, 2024. (Photo by Angela Piazza/Caller-Times)

Ajagba’s first and only loss was to Frank Sanchez in 2021, a top 10-ranked [according to the main sanctioning bodies] Cuban heavyweight who is set to face another top-rated heavyweight in Agit Kabayel (24-0, 16 KO’s) on the undercard of the Usyk-Fury May 18th event. Since that loss, Ajagba has managed to find himself ranked as the #10 and #9 on respectively the WBO’s and IBF’s heavyweight rankings, but his last performance against Vianello suggests he might not keep that position if faced with any other top 10 heavyweight.

An opportunity for Efe Ajagba might lurk when it comes to potentially facing Jared Anderson, who is better positioned for a potential world title fight as he is considered a top 5 heavyweight by the WBC, WBO and IBF. An Anderson fight might be the only recourse for Ajagba with every other fighter aside from Anderson signed to other promotions.

As boxing politics would prevent Efe Ajagba from fighting just any top 10 heavyweight, and him likely unwilling to face the hard-hitting Zhilei Zhang (26-2-1, 21 KO’s) who is signed to Queensberry, an Anderson fight might be the only step left for Ajagba after his closer-than-anticipated fight with Guido Vianello.

An easier alternative for Efe Ajagba could be Arslanbek Makhmudov (18-1, 17 KO’s), who is also aligned with Top Rank through a co-promotional deal. The Russian fighter is set to fight on May 25th against New Zealander Junior Fa (20-3, 11 KO’s), opening up avenues for Ajagba to face the winner in a bid to move up higher as a potential world title contender.

The undercard of the Top Rank show saw American featherweight talent Ruben Villa (22-1, 7 KO’s) net a unanimous decision win over fringe Mexican contender Cristian Cruz Chacon (22-7-1, 11 KO’s in a match that was scheduled for ten rounds. Villa also won the vacant WBC Silver title in the process.

American lightweight prospect Abdullah Mason (13-0, 11 KO’s) also won his match over Venezuelan opponent Ronal Ron (14-6, 11 KO’s), stopping him in the fourth round of the eight-round scheduled bout. It was a good performance from Mason, but not a fight that will signal him anywhere close to ready for contending anytime soon.

Brazilian super featherweight Robson Conceicao (18-2-1, 9 KO’s) also made an appearance on the undercard and stopped Mexican fighter Jose Ivan Guardado Ortiz (15-2-1, 5 KO’s) in the seventh round of the eight-round bout. The match marked Conceicao’s return to the ring following an upset majority-decision draw against Emanuel Navarrete (38-1, 31 KO’s) last year.