It’s barely 10 days to the opening of the 2016 Olympics and optimism about Nigeria winning any shade of medal in Rio is quite low.
However, in all of the pessimism, Nigeria’s sole boxer to Rio, Efe Ajagba, is talking tough. He says his mission to Brazil is to end the 20-year jinx that has seen Nigeria not winning any boxing medal since the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.
In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Tunde Eludini, the 91+ Kg fighters said he is ready to shock the world even though many are not giving him any chance to make impact.
PT: How does it feel to be the only boxer that will be going to Rio to represent Nigeria?
Ajagba: I must confess I am not too happy because I am the only one who qualified for the Olympics games. You know that to have a lot of boxers qualify would have been better and it would have been an encouragement.
However, this would be an opportunity to shine and encourage other boxers that were unable to qualify because it would be like I am raising the hopes of other boxers that were not able to make the cut. If I win gold it would benefit all the others and encourage them as we celebrate that medal that we win.
PT: Why did you choose to go into boxing and not any other sports?
Ajagba: I actually started sports by playing football when I was in secondary school but I discovered that it was not the best for me as it would not give me the opportunity to stand out and there was no income. I was playing in a football club in Delta state at the time when a guy in my area challenged me to a fight. The guy was bigger and looked heavier than me and people thought I would be floored but I brought him down with just a punch.
That was when friends encouraged me to take up boxing but at that time, I did not think boxing was for me. A couple of years later, I just decided not to continue in football. That day, I went to the stadium at Ughelli, to look for a boxing coach; that was in November 2011. Though I started training in boxing, I did not leave football completely. However, I got into boxing fully after I won silver at the National Sports Festival. That was when the national coaches saw me and invited me to join the national team to represent Nigeria at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
PT: What was your family’s reaction to your choice of boxing?
Ajagba: My father was Ajagba Samuel and he used to be a boxer. Though he was a good boxer, he did not gain income from it but he encouraged me after I told him I wanted to get involved in boxing. He told me I had the physical strength to be in the profession and that encouraged me to continue. Right now, they are very happy with my progress so far. I have always won medals in any competition I participate and they appreciate that. My dad is so happy about that.
PT: Have you enjoyed the best of preparations for the Rio Olympics?
Ajagba: I have been training for the past two months. My coaches have given me the best training and right now I am focused on going to Rio to give my best. I want to concentrate on my energies for that. So no thought for training tours because this is late into preparations. The boxers I am going to meet are going to be the best of the best, but I am not going there to just watch and be intimidated. It is the same training they have received I have also received here so I am going there to try my possible best.
PT: Which boxers challenge you the most?
Ajagba: Countries like Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Cuba and England. They have countries with very good boxers especially Toni and from England are very tough and I think I am the only one that can give them a tough time. I have the talent and i have the power to overcome them.
PT: What is your target in Rio?
Ajagba: The target is simple I want to be the first Nigerian to win a medal in boxing since 1996, I want to break that 20-year jinx and let the world know that Africa and Nigeria have a new boxer that is ready to rule the world. I can confidently say Ajagba will make history and bring home a medal. I will surprise the world even though many people are not giving me any chance of doing well in Rio.
In every competition I have gone, I have always won something, In 2016 I won the gold medal in the super heavyweight event at the African Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament held in Yaoundé, Cameroon. By doing so I qualified to represent Nigeria at the 2016 Summer Olympics.
At the at the 2014 Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow, I won Bronze even though I was robbed of getting into the finals at the 2015 African Games held in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo I won gold. The records are there for all to see, by the grace God I will make it to the podium in Rio and we will all celebrate.