After claiming a bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, fast rising amateur boxer, Efe Ajagba, has set his sights on doing well for Nigeria at the 11th All Africa Games in Brazzaville, Congo. In this exclusive interview with Completesportsnigeria.com's JAMES AGBEREBI, Ajagba opens up on why he dumped football for boxing, among other interesting revelations.
YOU ARE AMONG THE BOXERS INVITED TO CAMP IN PREPARATION FOR THE ALL AFRICA GAMES. HOW HAS IT BEEN FOR YOU IN CAMP?
So far, everything has been going on well in camp. The training has been wonderful and the coaches have been great in training with. Hopefully, I will be among the boxers who will represent Nigeria at the All Africa Games.
YOU TOOK PART IN THE GEN. KENNETH MINIMAH BOXING TRIALS. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE TRIALS AND YOUR PERFORMANCE?
It was a very nice boxing trials, at least boxers from different parts of Nigeria were given the opportunity to showcase their talents, so it was a good idea by the organizers to come up with it. And for me, I think I did well, I was able to use my experience and also my height against my opponents.So if I want to rate my performance, I will say I did very well.
WHAT WILL BE YOUR TARGET IF YOU EVENTUALLY MAKE THE FINAL CUT FOR THE ALL AFRICA GAMES?
Truth is I don't know who I will come up against at the All Africa Games. Boxers from different countries will be in Congo, but I believe it is not by power or by might, it is by God's grace. But on my own part, I will make sure I train very hard and prepare for whoever I will face. Talking about winning a medal, I can't say for now whether I will win gold, silver or bronze, it's only God that knows what medal I will win.
YOU REPRESENTED NIGERIA AT LAST YEAR'S COMMONWEALTH GAMES IN SCOTLAND. WHAT WAS THE EXPERIENCE LIKE? DID YOU BELIEVE YOU WILL GET TO THE SEMI-FINAL?
It was a wonderful experience, a dream come true for me as a boxer. After all the efforts and training, I was opportuned to represent Nigeria in such a big championship. To me, it was a great feeling. And honestly, I never believed that I will make it that far. That was the first time I will ever represent Nigeria at a major championship. And to come back with a bronze medal was unbelievable, it was not my doing, God made it possible.
WITH YOUR HEIGHT YOU COULD HAVE BEEN A BASKETBALL PLAYER OR A FOOTBALLER. How DID YOU TAKE TO BOXING?
Actually, my first love was football: I started taking football seriously in 2005 while in secondary school. I loved football more than any other sports then. I even joined an amateur team, but I later realized that without connection in football you can't make it. After all the disappointments, one of my friends advised: he told me that with my height and strength that I should switch to boxing. I remember while I was still in Ughelli, in Delta state, I used to cut firewoods and also work in a bakery. You know getting involved in such tasks, one must have the strength. Like I said, I love football very much, but because I didn't have the connections, I had to switch to boxing.
ARE HAPPY TODAY THAT YOU TOOK THAT DECISION?
Of course, though it was difficult for me. However, I am happy I took the decision. I quit playing football in 2010, and in 2011, I went to the stadium to look for a boxing coach. Luckily, I was directed to a coach and I told him straight away that I want to be a boxer. The coach looked at me from up to down and said I could start training the next day. That actually surprised me because I was thinking he would ask me to give him money. I went back home and returned the next day, and that was how it all started for me.
HOW DID YOUR FAMILY REACT TO YOUR DECISION TO BECOME A BOXER?
My father never liked the idea at the beginning. He said I should stop boxing and go back to the bakery work. And because all the responsibilities in my family was on my shoulder, my father had to go to where I used to train and told the coaches to stop me from boxing. They told him to allow me become a boxer, but he refused. My coach then advised me that I should resume bakery work and go there early, then attend boxing training as soon as I close at work.
WHAT'S YOUR FAMILY'S STAND NOW THAT YOU ARE A RECOGNIZED BOXER IN NIGERIA?
Now, they are very happy. There were even times that I planned going to training but couldn't wake up on time, my father would be the one to wake me up and say, 'are you not going to training?' So right now, they are happy. Even whenever I was in camp, they called me to know how I was doing.
LOOKING AT THE INCOME ASPECT, WOULD YOU SAY YOU MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE?
I would say am not doing badly because back home, I am the one paying the rent. Whatever they want, I give them and they are always happy.
WHAT IS YOUR BOXING STYLE? ARE YOU A POWER PUNCHER OR DO YOU FOCUS ON JABS? WHAT REALLY IS YOUR STYLE?
For me, boxing is not all about power, it's about techniques. Even when I went to the Commonwealth Games, I realized that I was even the smallest among the boxers inspite of my height. There were boxers bigger than me in height and size, but I didn't allow that to affect me. I just focused on my style which is about techniques because I am not a power puncher.
WHEN DO YOU PLAN TO SWITCH FROM AN AMATEUR TO A PROFESSIONAL BOXER?
I plan to switch from amateur to professional in about four years time. Like we all know, the Rio Olympics is very close. It comes up next year, so after the All Africa Games, I will focus on the Olympics. For now, that is my priority. Then in the next few years I can now start thinking of becoming a professional boxer.
DO YOU HAVE ANY PARTICULAR BOXER YOU LOOK UP TO?
The boxer I look up to is Wladimir Klitscko because he is a technical boxer. He is an experience boxer, I like the way he boxes. He uses his height and jab very well and I hope to be like him one day.
THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR YOUR TIME
It's a pleasure.