Lou DiBella suggested last month that Stephan Shaw, the unbeaten heavyweight his company co-promotes, stick with the fight he already had scheduled.

The ambitious Shaw wouldn’t hear of it.

The St. Louis native pounced on the opportunity to replace Oscar Rivas as Efe Ajagba’s opponent in ESPN’s main event Saturday night. The 30-year-old Shaw (18-0, 13 KOs, 1 NC) is just as confident that he’ll beat the hard-hitting Ajagba (16-1, 13 KOs) as he was when he thought he would battle Italian prospect Guido Vianello (10-0-1, 9 KOs) in the 10-round co-feature at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.

Ajagba represents a step up in competition for Shaw, but this is just the type of challenge Shaw sought when he and DiBella entered a co-promotional agreement with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc. last January.

“Ajagba, he’s known as a puncher,” Shaw told BoxingScene.com. “But I’m a puncher as well. I’m a boxer-puncher. And I’m not just some one-dimensional guy. I truly feel that Ajagba is very one-dimensional. And I feel like I’m gonna be victorious Saturday night.”

Shaw expects a victory over Ajagba to invigorate a professional career he launched nine years ago. The huge Nigerian is a dangerous puncher, but undefeated Frank Sanchez out-boxed Ajagba throughout their 10-rounder and won a unanimous decision on the Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder undercard in October 2021 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The Cuban-born Sanchez (21-0, 14 KOs) knocked Ajagba to the canvas in the seventh round en route to winning comfortably on all three scorecards (98-91, 98-91, 97-92).

“I definitely feel I’m capable of doing the same thing and capable of doing more than Frank Sanchez,” Shaw said. “He definitely showed a blueprint of how to beat Ajagba. It was very much traditional boxing. You know what I mean? Sticking and moving, hit and not get hit, knowing when to shoot the right shots and just being smart in there and out-thinking, again, a one-dimensional fighter. He has no special effects. You know, he tries to throw a big right hand. But, you know, I’m not a lesser-caliber fighter, like the guys he has knocked out. You know, and Frank Sanchez definitely exposed a lotta things in Ajagba’s armor.”

ESPN’s telecast is scheduled to start Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET. Undercard coverage of eight fights will begin on ESPN+ at 5 p.m. ET.

In the opener of ESPN’s two-bout broadcast, Vianello will face Las Vegas’ Jonnie Rice (15-6-1, 10 KOs), who replaced Shaw as the 2016 Olympian’s opponent once Shaw accepted a fight against Ajagba. The Colombian-born, Quebec-based Rivas (28-1, 19 KOs) withdrew from the main event because he suffered a detached retina while training.

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