Andre Ward saw some improvement in Efe Ajagba on Saturday night.

Not enough, however, that the ESPN analyst is convinced that the hard-hitting Nigerian can compete with the more formidable contenders in the heavyweight division. Ward wants to see more diversity in Ajagba’s offensive repertoire and in how the 6-foot-6, 235-pound power puncher defends himself.

Ajagba (17-1, 13 KOs) has been criticized for being too reliant on his destructive right hand, but his consistent jab was perhaps the key to his 10-round, unanimous-decision defeat of previously unbeaten Stephan Shaw in ESPN’s main event from Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.

The 28-year-old Ajagba, who resides in Stafford, Texas, won by the same score, 96-94, according to judges Eric Marlinski, John McKaie and Don Trella.

St. Louis’ Shaw wasn’t active enough for most of their bout, but Ajagba demonstrated that he learned from his one-sided, 10-round points loss to Cuban contender Frank Sanchez (21-0, 14 KOs) in October 2021 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Ajagba referred to his performance as “a start” during his post-fight interview with ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna.

To compete with more proven heavyweights than Shaw (18-1, 13 KOs, 1 NC), Ward feels Ajagba must elevate his game to a higher level.

“I think he’s gonna have to step it up,” Ward, a former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion, said during ESPN’s post-fight coverage of the Ajagba-Shaw show. “He’s gonna have to be more creative with his offense and his defense. And that comes from being in a gym, not just going through the same repetitions. Go hit the bag for three, four rounds. Go hit the mitts for three, four rounds, where nobody’s really drilling you.

“And I’m not saying they’re not doing this, but I’m saying this is how these improvements come. You drill specific things. ‘Hey, you keep going to sleep after you throw your right hand. Get off the line. Hey, you have to attack this way.’ In sparring, you gotta challenge him in a way, get him in there with certain guys like Jared Anderson and others, who can keep challenging him to be himself, but to also add the new wrinkles he’s gonna need.”

Former junior welterweight and welterweight champion Tim Bradley, one of Ward’s ESPN partners, noticed improvement in Ajagba as well.

“He’s gotten better,” Bradley said. “You know, tonight he was boring as heck tonight. Both of these guys were boring tonight. They didn’t give me enough sense of urgency. But I have to say that Ajagba did get better. I saw a more crisp jab. When he threw his right hand, it would land. He was patient.

“I loved the fact that he stopped loading up with the right hand and actually started placing the right hand, instead of loading up with it. I loved the fact that he actually showed a little bit of sense of urgency. His corner was trying to get him revved up and get him going. And when he did that, that’s what took over the fight.”

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.