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Updated: Aug 7, 2019

Former Commonwealth & British champ Bob Ajisafe discusses his return amongst other things

Eat Sleep Boxing Repeat’s Eliot Stott spoke to Light Heavyweight Bob Ajisafe earlier this week to discuss his year out of the sport with injury, what he thinks of the domestic scene within his weight division & the untimely loss of old foe Dean Francis.

Hey Bob, first of all thanks for giving us a bit of your time today, how are you at the moment and how is training going?

BA - Despite being out for a little while, I’m still training and training hard at the moment, ticking over whilst trying to secure a fight date for later this year.

Unfortunately I’ve been really unlucky with injuries for the past year, breaking my hand in my last fight which took over 4 months to heal properly.

Once that was healed, whilst skipping I managed to break one of my metatarsals which set me back another while so it’s been quite a frustrating time for myself really.

However, since I recovered from that injury I’ve been back training full time and I’m actually in pretty decent shape now. In the past I’ve had to deal with being highly avoided beforehand leading to some stints of inactivity so I’m used to spending time outside of the ring.

Good to hear that you’re in good shape! In regards to your next fight date, what’s the plan for your return?

So as things stand we’re looking to be back in the ring for September by which time the new season will have kicked off and there will be plenty of shows that I’ll be able to get on.

At the moment as the season is coming to an end, the amount of shows are few and far between so it’s difficult to actually get out there.

Speaking of your return, you’ve competed at Light-Heavyweight for your entire pro-career, however due to the amount of time that you’ve had out of the ring, is moving up to Cruiserweight a possibility for you at the moment?

That’s a good question! I do believe that I could still make the 175 pound limit despite being a little bit older than when I last had to make the weight.

Potentially, I could move up in weight to Cruiserweight but I do feel that I’d be very small at the weight and I may suffer from the massive jump up in weight so it’s probably more beneficial for me to remain at Light-Heavyweight.

Perhaps another benefit to you making a return at Light-Heavyweight is the amount of notable fights that British Light-Heavyweights have been involved in over the last 12 months, some of which include the belts that you vacated.

Is that fair to say?

To be honest with you I really don’t think that those guys on the domestic scene really want to fight me.

To be fair, these guys have only come to the forefront due to me being forced to vacate the belts when I challenged for the world title.

Frank Buglioni is much better at Super-Middleweight and Hosea Burton wouldn’t have become British champ if the belt hadn’t been vacated. Anthony Yarde is someone who looks decent but I’d really like to see him fight somebody of note before Boxing fans get too excited about him.

When you compare those fighters with myself, I feel that I’ve been matched with good operators early in my career despite never really being built up i.e. Ovill Mckenzie & Tony Bellew whereas these fighters haven’t despite some of them having had 20+ fights.

I’ll admit that the division is more active over the last year or so but I’d still say that there’s a lack of credibility within the British fighters of the division.

Seeing as I didn’t lose the belt and chose to fight for a world title instead, I’d like to win the British belt outright on my return and to do that I’ll probably need to go through some of the fighters that we’ve mentioned.

Looking forward to those fights when they happen then! Somebody within your division who people are talking about is Joshua Buatsi who’s only had 6 pro fights.

I didn’t see a huge amount of him in the Olympics and it’s hard to judge someone’s capabilities when they’ve only had a handful of fights and they’re not up against much.

I’d say that so far he’s had the right opponents for somebody early in their pro career but I fear that as he progresses he may come up against other fighters that are a lot bigger than him at Light Heavyweight.

Interesting insight. Looking at your career, it’s really interesting, I think that you’re one of these fighters who is unlucky to have losses on their record considering how you lost those fights.

When you reflect on those losses what are your thoughts?

Well obviously the Carl Dilks fight was a Prizefighter fight so take from that what you will. It’s a fight that I thought that I won as did a lot of other people but there you go.

Looking back on the Tony Bellew fight, I felt that it was an extremely close fight in which I was comfortably able to show my Boxing skills. Considering that it was my 10th pro fight as well I think that I did very well.

Unfortunately afterwards, my career stagnated a little bit and I wasn’t able to get the opponents that I would have liked, probably due to how good my performance was in that fight.

Finally, I feel that if the Umar Salamov fight which took place in Russia had taken place in the UK or even somewhere neutral, I would have come out victorious.

The corruption is pretty rife out there when it comes to Boxing so I knew that I had to stop him to be sure of winning the fight. From what I remember it took me until around round 4 to get going in the fight but from then on I felt like I dominated and should have won on points.

I’ll admit that Salamov is a good fighter but I have to disagree with the conclusion of that fight but that’s Boxing sometimes unfortunately.

Whilst we’re at it, one fight that I’d like to ask about is the Ovill Mckenzie fight. Considering how close the scorecard was in that fight and what Ovill did later in his career, was a rematch ever discussed down the line?

No not really. I think that he might have wanted the rematch but I never really felt the need for it.

He knocked me down in the first round giving him a 10-8 headstart but I feel that once I had recovered from the knockdown it was very comfortable for me. Thinking about it, if there was a rematch I think that it would have been a much clearer victory for myself, if you look at how the Bellew Vs Mckenzie rematch ended, I think there would be a similar ending if Ovill and myself had boxed again.

So of course I’ve got to touch on the untimely death of Dean Francis a few weeks ago. A man that you fought for the British title, what are your memories of your fight with Dean and did you keep in touch afterwards?

As I was up and coming as a pro, Dean was the guy to be so I remember after only having a couple of pro fights thinking how talented he was as a fighter.

You could use the phrase “idols became rivals” I suppose, as we ended up fighting once I had moved up the division.

In what was his 40th fight, he definitely used his experience in his fight against me in what was a brilliant fight. I thought that I out-boxed him on the night and the scorecards show that but there’s no doubting that Dean was a special talent.

The following year when I fought in Bristol, Dean was at my fight and we had a short catch-up afterwards and unfortunately that was the last time that I saw him.

Thanks Bob. To finish off with, I’m always interested to see how much time established pro’s such as yourself spend watching the sport and whether you’d consider yourself a fan of the sport as well as a competitor?

Yeah definitely I watch Boxing quite often. As a younger fighter, watching Boxing was a big part of my development and as a more experienced fighter I want to see what’s happening and a feel that as a professional boxer you should know what’s going on within the sport, especially within your weight division.

I tend to watch more US Boxing than UK Boxing to be honest with you, I think there are too many fights in the UK that get advertised as 50/50 fights when they’re not and I’ve grown tired of it over the last couple of years.

I do pay special attention to my weight division and although it wasn’t the most interesting fight, I enjoyed the Jack Vs Stevenson fight a few weeks ago and I’m looking forward to the Kovalev Vs Alvarez fight in August which should be interesting.

Ideally, I’d like to see Kovalev face either Jack, Stevenson or even Dmitry Bivol who’s an exciting fighter. However, whether those fights can be made remain to be seen.

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