Stephan Shaw has accepted a more daunting assignment than he had for January 14.

St. Louis’ Shaw was scheduled to box unbeaten Italian heavyweight prospect Guido Vianello in ESPN’s 10-round co-feature that night at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York. has learned, though, that Shaw instead has agreed to replace injured Oscar Rivas in the 10-round main event versus Efe Ajagba.

Vianello (10-0-1, 9 KOs) is now expected to fight American veteran Jonnie Rice in ESPN’s co-feature January 14.

Los Angeles’ Rice (15-6-1, 10 KOs) has beaten previously undefeated Michael Coffie (13-3, 10 KOs) in back-to-back bouts, but he hasn’t fought since his 10-round, unanimous-decision victory over Brooklyn’s Coffie in their immediate rematch January 1 at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Rice stopped Coffie in the fifth round of their first fight, which took place in July 2021 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Matchmakers for Top Rank Inc., which co-promotes Ajagba and Shaw, turned to Shaw (18-0, 13 KOs, 1 NC) once Rivas withdrew from the Ajagba bout on Wednesday. The 35-year-old Rivas (28-1, 19 KOs) suffered retina damage during a sparring session recently and was forced to pull out of what was slated to be his most challenging bout since Dillian Whyte defeated the Colombian-born, Montreal-based contender by unanimous decision in their 12-rounder in July 2019 at O2 Arena in London.

Shaw was committed to taking tougher, more visible fights on ESPN after Top Rank signed him to a co-promotional agreement with DiBella Entertainment 11 months ago. In Ajagba (16-1, 13 KOs), Shaw will encounter a hard-hitting opponent who has lost only a 10-round unanimous decision to unbeaten Cuban contender Frank Sanchez (21-0, 14 KOs) in October 2021 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The 30-year-old Shaw most recently defeated Detroit’s Rydell Booker (27-7-1, 14 KOs) by unanimous decision in an eight-rounder November 22 at Edison Ballroom in New York.

Ajagba, 28, will fight for the second time since Sanchez dropped him in the seventh round and outpointed him on all three scorecards 14 months ago. The 2016 Nigerian Olympian stopped Hungary’s Jozsef Darmos (14-6-3, 10 KOs) in the second round of his last fight, which took place August 27 at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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