In January 2016, at an undisclosed venue, most of the leading British light-heavyweights convened amid balloons and ribbon, gathering under an ostentatious disco ball. As Frank Buglioni and Anthony Yarde devoured canapes – protein packed, of course – Hosea Burton and Callum Johnson shared a silent toast to the inspiration for these lavish festivities, a man who had not been invited to his own farewell party. As spidery, powerful Bob Ajisafe vacated the Lonsdale Belt to challenge IBO ruler Umar Salamov in the latter’s native Russia, his would-be domestic usurpers rejoiced in his abdication, dancing the night away as their division opened up before them.
The above may or may not have actually happened, but what is beyond doubt is that Ajisafe, then in the form of his life, did the aforementioned quartet a favour by abandoning the domestic arena to face Salamov, who ultimately took a contentious and not entirely unsurprising decision in May last year.
Since then Ajisafe has changed his support network and struggled with illness, issues which rendered him inactive for a year before returning with a routine six-round win, during which he broke his left hand. Having joined the thriving Jamie Moore, loose-limbed switch-hitter Ajisafe, still only 32 and with just 20 fights on his ledger, is intent on reclaiming his previous status, and going even further.
“I was on a great run before the Salamov fight,” says Ajisafe, who is managed by Steve Wood and was working with Oliver Harrison before the Salford stalwart’s former charge, Moore, stepped in as his old mentor became unwell. “I picked up the domestic titles, the MaxiNutrition Knockout trophy and proved myself as number one in Britain. The IBO title fight was the best option at that time. I believe I should have won but didn’t get the decision because it was in Moscow. But it was either that or stay and defend my British title and [promoter, Frank] Warren tried to lowball me with an offer for a mandatory defence against Miles Shinkwin, who was only an Area champion at the time and was supposed to face Travis Dickinson for the English belt but then Dickinson retired leaving Shinkwin as the mandatory, which was madness. I wasn’t prepared to put it all on the line for such a menial amount plus I felt I was past that level and wanted to keep pushing on. I’d fought on a Warren show against Tony Bellew back in 2010 for more money so why, years on, would I accept a lot less?”
Now managed by Steve Wood, Ajisafe is actively looking for a promoter and is hoping to get out before the end of the year, although early 2018 looks more likely, as Bob has only recently started using his damaged hand again. The Leeds man never defended the British title he won against a faded but still dangerous Dean Francis in 2014 and feels he has unfinished business with the Lonsdale Belt.
“I’m still the best light-heavyweight in Britain, no one took them titles from me,” he declares. “No one was gonna get them off me when I had them. No one wanted to fight me then and no one wants to fight me now. Look who I’ve fought and beat already. I wish there was a regulation or clause that a fighter who relinquished the British title could be named preferential challenger to reclaim the belt because I’d love to win it outright. I want the European title because I’ve never had it and that would put me in a good position with the world governing bodies so I can fight for a world title and make some good revenue before I retire.
“I think I’ve got at least another three, four years in me at championship level, because my style, I don’t take a lot of shots, I’m not in no wars, I live good, I’m healthy.”