Photos by Sumio Yamada
AJOSE OLUSEGUN vs NIGEL WRIGHT
Nigel Wright, a skilled and perhaps underrated fighter from County Durham in northeast England, has so far come up short in his biggest fights. One of his losses was to Ajose Olusegun, the London-based Nigerian. On Friday the two southpaws meet again, with the vacant British light-welter title at stake Olusegun is now eligible to box for the British championship.
Originally, Olusegun was supposed to challenge Northern Irelands Paul McCloskey for the title. McCloskey vacated the championship, though, in order to meet Souleymane MBaye for the European title (and a career-best purse). Scotlands Barry Morrison was then matched with Olusegun, only to pull out due to injury. This lets in Wright, who took the fight at 10 days' notice.
Wright put up a strong showing against Olusegun 16 months ago, when he did well in the early rounds but was outfought down the stretch. He is adamant that he will turn the tables in the Sky-televised rematch.
Ive worked harder, Ive trained harder, Im more experienced and I know what I did wrong [in the last fight], Wright told the Peterlee Mail newspaper. Im more mature and I realise what Ive got to do to be a champion now. This is what I want, this is my dream, and its not going to get away this time.
Im just going to break his heart. Im going to frustrate him with my boxing skills, like I did last time. Im going to pick him off and hit him with good shots. I know I can hurt him I rocked him last time. This time Im not going to let him off the hook Im going to finish the job and hopefully do it in style.
Olusegun is the favourite, though. The Nigerian Olympic representative has won 26 consecutive bouts and holds the Commonwealth championship and he defeated Wright in the first meeting, although not easily.
Wright has since been outpointed by Paul McCloskey and Michael Lomax in all-southpaw bouts, both closely contested. He gave the unbeaten McCloskey his toughest fight, while the loss to the bigger Lomax in the Prizefighter welterweight tournament was by split decision. Wright puts a positive spin on these losses, though, feeling that the bouts have helped to make him a more seasoned, better fighter.
Olusegun has mostly been jogging along in keep-busy fights since beating Wright, although in February he was impressive in a Commonwealth title defence when he toyed with Scott Haywood before crumpling his challenger with a body shot in the seventh.
There is no doubting Oluseguns talent, but my concern about him in this fight is that he could be a bit complacent. Olusegun feels he is ready to box in world class. He is going over old ground on Friday and I wonder a little about his level of motivation. Wright, though, was disappointed with his performance in the last fight with Olusegun. He feels he was well placed to win but allowed Olusegun to wrest the initiative away from him, and he promises to fight harder this time.
Although Wright is coming in as a substitute, he is the type who is always in the gym, never really getting out of condition.
In the last fight, Wright started superbly and an upset seemed to be looming. Wright was winning the early rounds with his sharp, snappy boxing against a somewhat lacklustre Olusegun, and in the fourth round he shook the Nigerian with a jarring right jab. Olusegun came on from the fifth round, however, and his flashy moves and high volume of punches started winning him rounds.
Wright demonstrated that he has the talent and the style to cause Olusegun problems, though. If Wright can start fast once more, but this time dig in and stay with Olusegun in the second half of the fight, an upset becomes a distinct possibility.
I make this a highly competitive fight. Wright knows the mistakes he made last time and what he has to do to achieve a different outcome. If Olusegun thinks he can give away rounds and then take change when he decides to move up a gear, he might be in for an unpleasant surprise.
Yet while I expect a strong challenge from Wright, I cannot go against Olusegun. He is a classy, relaxed fighter with hand speed and fluid movement, and he is capable of improvising, while Wright is more of a technically correct, by-the-book fighter. I see Olusegun having the edge after 12 entertaining rounds, but I would not be surprised if this time it is quite a close call on the cards.