When undefeated cruiserweights Efetobor Apochi (10-0, 10 KOs) and Deon Nicholson (14-0, 13 KOs) collide at the Shrine Exposition Center in Los Angeles on Saturday, April 17, they will bring a combined 96 percent knockout rate into the ring. Scheduled for 12 rounds, the WBA title eliminator will be aired on Fox Sports.
Besides the sky-high knockout percentage, everything else seems to indicate a 50-50 type violent encounter. Both are aggressive boxer-bangers who stand at 5'11". Nicholson has more fights and Apochi the better knockout percentage, but not by much. Apochi's level of opposition has been better, but also, not by much. As far as a common opponent goes, Apochi stopped Earl Newman in seven rounds, while Newman was the only man to last the 10-round distance against Nicholson.
Despite the close stats and creds, both Apochi and his trainer Ronnie Shields envision that he will not only prevail but prevail quite easily.
"He's strong for a cruiserweight, young, upcoming but he's not on my level in the ring, believe me," Apochi said. "He's not a problem to me and I don't even consider him anything big. He's just going to be another KO. I'm special. Like the Greeks say, 'Man, know thyself,' I know who I am so I'm not bothered by anything. I know what I can do.
"My number one key to victory is the mentality. You have to know exactly how you think and feel. I always dominate everyone with my mind. Then I have Ronnie Shields. I told him, 'Ronnie, you have the remote control so just use it. The corner is the key and Ronnie's been in the sport forever, He knows the ins and outs of boxing. With Ronnie Shields, my confidence is full. Even if I make mistakes in the first round we can always go to the corner and adjust."
The fighters' high knockout percentages is just a number on paper, Shields said, irrelevant to how the fight will unfold in the actual ring.
"I don't think that's going to matter," Shields said. "When it comes down to the skill set, he can box and he can fight inside when he has to. He's got a really good jab, he throws combinations from the outside, then when he gets close he really let's his hands go. It's going to be more a matter of can the other guy stand with him and take his punches."
The winner will move on to challenge WBA titleholder Arsen Goulamarian of France. Apochi is neither familiar nor concerned with Goulamarian for the moment, instead opting to concentrate on the task at hand.
"My job is to train and fight," Apochi said. "I really don't care about who's next. When it's time, bring him."
"Once you step in the ring with me you'll know you're there with one of the most dangerous human beings on earth. I train everyday. I'm dedicated to this sport. This is all I know how to do - for me, no boxing, no life. Nobody can beat me."
Asked if Apochi was ready for a world title fight at this early juncture in his career, Shields responded: "Absolutely he's ready. He had a decent amateur career and he won the Commonwealth Games for Nigeria. This kid is powerful and he's always in shape. He trains hard everyday. I don't have any problems with him and he maintains his weight perfectly all the time. A lot of people have never seen the style that he possesses. He surprises a lot of people because he punches with both hands, he's always in shape and he listens.
"This kid is a born fighter."