*Hardest Opponent Dispatched in Round 2
Ernest Omoarelojie with Agency Reports
That’s the question many Nigerian sports enthusiasts, particularly boxing buffs, will want an answer to. They need not worry as the rather unsung Nigerian born, US-based pugilist, is punching his way to reckoning given the ease with which he is disposing his opponents since he turned pro.
For the record, Akpejiori, the Nigerian Hurricane, as he is fondly referred, has had 6 pro fights, with all ending within the first two rounds like his latest bout against Steven Lyons in Miami on Saturday night which ended in a brutal opening round knockout after which he signaled his readiness for dream big fights with the like of Tyson Fury
“If I was going to name a dream fight for me in the next year, I would say Tyson Fury and Dillian Whyte. Those are two guys I know I can step in the ring with and beat both of them.
My goal is to have the heavyweight belts in my hand. Once I’ve accomplished that, everything else will fall in place,” he said.
Akpejiori won 13 of his 14 amateur bouts before turning professional in 2018 under the watchful eyes of former world light-heavyweight champion, Glen Johnson. For Johnson who is pleased with his progress thus far, the Nigerian prize fighter still requires additional work in undercard fights to make progress to the big league.
“When Raphael came to me, he was very raw, as raw can be,” Johnson said. “It’s very gratifying seeing how he has developed. When you have a vision of yourself of what a fighter can accomplish and you see it manifest, it is a beautiful thing.”
Born Ethasor Raphael Akpejiori in Surelere, Lagos Nigeria, where he grew up before moving over to Wichita, Kansas, United States on on a basketball scholarship. In 2010, he once again, moved over to Miami, Florida, following his recruitment by the University of Miami basketball team. However, while in Miami, he switched over to American football and went on to gain a place at the Miami Dolphins’ rookie training camp.
Yet it soon turned out that American football couldn’t sustain Akpejiori’s interest as he had to switch over to the more physically tasking, one-on-one contact sport, boxing.
Upon turning pro on 14 September 2018, Akpejiori sent quick notice of his presence, knocking quick fix senses into his opponents. In quick succession, he scored a first-round technical knockout, TKO, victory over Omar Acosta at the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln, Rhode Island, followed with another first-round TKO win over James Advincola in November after which he dispatched three more-Leo Cassiani in June, Johan Lopez in July and Jose Pulido in August via first-round stoppages in 2019.
Akpejiori’s first bout in 2020 ended via a second-round TKO win over Mike Ford in January.
“It’s pretty evident that when I touch people they kind of go to sleep. I’m not oblivious to that fact, but I’m not focused on that. My goal is to have the heavyweight belts in my hand. Once I’ve accomplished that, everything else will fall in place,” said the 30 year-old 6’8″ tall pugilist.
Certainly, his entry into the prize fight has further raised Nigeria’s profile in the boxing world. With the like of Anthony Joshua and Efe Ajagba making the nation proud, his exploits so far look promising to add more verve.