Heavyweight contender Efe Ajagba makes Top Rank debut this weekend
Heavyweight knockout artist Efe Ajagba will make his Top Rank on ESPN debut Saturday, Sept. 19 against veteran Jonnie Rice in a 10-rounder as the co-feature to the Jose Pedraza-Javier Molina junior welterweight main event from the MGM Grand Las Vegas.
On the undercard, a pair of newly signed 17-year-old Top Rank prospects who are co-promoted by Antonio Leonard Promotions, welterweights Jahi Tucker and Kasir “Mazzi” Goldston, will see action in separate four-round contests. Goldston, from Deer Park, N.Y., will fight Isaiah Varnell (3-2, 2 KOs), while Tucker will face Deandre Anderson (1-1).
The undercard bouts will stream live on ESPN+ beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the co-feature scheduled to begin at approximately 10 p.m. ET.
“I am delighted that Efe Ajagba will make his Top Rank debut as he continues his march to the top of the heavyweight division,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “Kasir Goldston and Jahi Tucker are two major talents, and we are excited to see their professional journeys begin here in Las Vegas.”
Ajagba (13-0, 11 KOs) resumes his heavyweight world title quest with a new promoter, manager (James Prince) and head trainer (Kay Koroma). Now living in Houston, Ajagba last fought in March, knocking out former world title challenger Razvan Cojanu in nine rounds. At 6’6 and 240-plus pounds, the 26-year-old former Nigerian Olympian is one of the division’s youngest contenders. Rice (13-5-1, 9 KOs) measures 6’5 and often tips the scales at more than 260 pounds. He is known for his durability, as his only two knockout defeats have come against previously unbeaten foes in the seventh and 10th rounds, respectively.
“To all my fans, the wait is finally over. I am ready to get back in the ring and do what I do best,” Ajagba said. “I haven’t fought since March 7, and I’ve been looking for someone to devour. On September 19, I finally get to do it. Tune in to ESPN+. You don’t want to miss it.”
Goldston, from Albany, N.Y., won three consecutive National Junior Olympic titles from 2015-2017 and back-to-back Junior Open Championships in 2017 and 2018. Last year, at the prestigious Bornemissza Tournament in Eger, Hungary, he took home a silver medal after a split decision loss to a Hungarian boxer.
Tucker, from Deer Park, N.Y., was ranked first in the nation at 138 pounds after winning the 2018 USA National Boxing Championship in Salt Lake City, Utah. A high school sophomore at the time, Tucker aimed to qualify for the 2024 Summer Olympics. He picked up his first international gold medal last June at the Bornemissza Tournament and elected to turn pro rather than wait for the Olympics.
In other undercard contests:
Two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez (4-1, 3 KOs), who avenged his lone pro defeat via shutout decision over Adan Gonzales on July 2, will fight Felix Caraballo (13-2-2, 9 KOs) in an eight-rounder at featherweight. Caraballo last fought June 9, losing via sixth-round knockout to former featherweight world champion Shakur Stevenson, the man Ramirez edged in the 2016 Olympic gold medal match.
Undefeated junior middleweight prospect Leo Ruiz (7-0, 5 KOs), winner of four straight by knockout in three rounds or less, will fight an opponent to be named in a six-rounder.
Bryan Lua (5-0, 2 KOs), from California’s Central Valley, will fight for the first time in more than two years against an opponent to be named in a six-rounder at lightweight.
Puerto Rican junior lightweight prospect Frevian Gonzalez (3-0, 1 KO), who won a decision inside the “Bubble” on June 18, returns to fight Carlos Marrero (2-3-1) in a four-rounder.