Ajagba: Nigerian on punching harder than sparring partner Tyson Fury

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Efe Ajagba (right) in action against Razvan CojanuEfe Ajagba was invited to train with Tyson Fury after stopping Brian Howard in the third round of their fight in April

The third instalment of the heavyweight contest between WBC champion Tyson Fury and his American nemesis and former champion Deontay Wilder on Saturday is already being billed as one of the biggest fights of the year.

But a stacked undercard in Las Vegas will include Nigeria's Efe Ajagba, who claims he can "punch harder than Fury" after sparring with the Briton.

The violent nature of Ajagba's thunderous third-round finish of Brian Howard in April earned him an invitation to Fury's training camp as the self-styled Gypsy King prepares to meet Wilder again.

"It was an explosive knockout so they brought me in because they believed I had the same knockout power like Wilder," Ajagba told BBC Sport Africa.

"Tyson Fury can hit but doesn't come close to my power. I punch harder than Tyson Fury.

"The punches that he threw (during sparring), I could take them. (But) he's been in the game for years before he became world champion. He's fought the top guys.

"I can tell you that I've learned a lot from the champion; he's very awkward, he's a big guy, he has a long reach. I have a long reach too and I'm a heavy puncher but he has a lot of experience so I learned so much from him in camp."

Efe Ajagba (right) in action against Brian HowardEfe Ajagba (right) has a perfect professional record of 15 wins from 15 fights, with 12 of those by knockout

In Ajagba's assessment, it is Fury's constant movement which makes him such a dangerous opponent.

"I have never sparred with a guy like that ever since I became a professional boxer in America," the 27-year-old added.

"There's something special about him because of the way he moves forwards and backward. It's very difficult for you to get close to him because he's always moving. It's very hard for you to hit the target."

Ajagba 'hopes to fight Fury' in future

While all eyes will be on Fury and Wilder in the main event at the T-Mobile Arena, Saturday's undercard will showcase a mix of some of the finest, the experienced and the prospective talents in the heavyweight division.

One of those is Ajagba, who boasts a perfect 15 wins from 15 fights as well as the record for the fastest victory in boxing history after his opponent was disqualified for leaving the ring one second after the opening bell.

He came to global attention at the 2016 Olympics with his memorable knockout of Trinidadian Nigel Paul in the first round of their bout, and after Rio de Janeiro he moved to the United States and turned professional.

Working with maverick Briton Fury was a memorable experience for Ajagba, which he hopes will stand him in good stead in upcoming fights.

"He's the first top-class heavyweight that I've sparred with which looks good on my record," he said. "For the WBC heavyweight champion to spar with me, that encourages me.

"It's great because I hope to fight him in the future but he's not the only heavyweight that I'm going to fight. There are a lot of other top heavyweights out there that I'm looking forward to."

'When I land one punch, it's over'

Ajagba faces Frank Sanchez in Nevada, with the undefeated Cuban putting his WBC Continental Americas heavyweight title on the line.

Trained by two-time trainer of the year Eddy Reynoso, who is also the trainer of four-division superstar Saul Canelo Alvarez, Sanchez boasts 13 knockouts from his 18 wins.

The 29-year-old Cuban is regarded by many as the favourite and superior boxer, while Ajagba is dismissed as a power-punching one-trick pony devoid of any skill, as some say about Wilder.

But the criticism doesn't faze Ajagba.

"I see and hear a lot of people say that, but I don't care," he replied.

"Like I said, when I land one punch it's over. Frank Sanchez moves a lot and his plan is going to be to move around and stay out of range.

"A lot of people keep talking about him being a more skilful fighter. Okay, I agree - but let's see on Saturday."

Frank Sanchez at a weigh-inFrank Sanchez puts his WBC Continental Americas heavyweight title on the line when he faces Efe Ajagba on Saturday

Not giving too much away, Ajagba hopes a win over Sanchez and one or two more fights will put him in the conversation for a crack at the world title soon.

"Next year," he states. "Looking for possibly one more fight, then that's it.

"But I'm looking forward to Sanchez first. After that, I'll see who's there to fight before the world title shot."

On the prospect of fighting back in Nigeria one day, Ajagba adds: "I'm pretty sure it will happen, but I have to talk to my manager and my promoter first.

"Lagos will be ideal. It's the best place to create a huge event for boxing."

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