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Azumah Nelson: First African Inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame
Azumah Nelson: First African Inducted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame

By - Victor Kekereekun

Posted - 18-07-2019

Azumah Nelson, born on 19th July 1958 in the newly independent Ghana is widely considered as the best boxer to come out of the African continent.

In his fighting days, the Ghanaian boxing legend’s thudding jabs and powerful overhands earned him the moniker “The Professor,” named for the lessons he’d teach opponents inside the ring. His daring feats inside the four corners of the ring made him a national hero in the West African country, while in 2004 he became the first African to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Born the year after his home nation of Ghana gained independence, he played a major part in putting this new country on the world map. A glittering amateur career saw him win every title – competing at the 1978 Commonwealth Games where he won a gold medal in the Featherweight class, except an Olympic medal, as Ghana boycotted the 1980 Games – even when he was a favourite to win.

From the Ghetto of Bokum…

Azumah grew up in the harsh environment of the Bokum province in the Accra Region of Ghana.  Fighting was a hobby for Azumah and a way of life for the children of the region.  In the then Bokum, kids were allowed to fight on the streets as long as they are the same age and used no weapons. Outsiders knew about the kids from Bokum, and even if you were a talented fighter, you did not mess with the kids from Bokum even if you were older.

Like many champions, he rose from humble beginnings, suffered tragedy along the way, but he won and remained a world champion at featherweight and super featherweight for eleven years. Very few champions have carried such a burden of expectation, and Azumah delivered success at a time when his country needed a hero. He never faltered and won the respect of many across the world.

Azumah Nelson picked up gold in the featherweight division at the Edmonton games in 1978. After this success he turned professional and within 10 fights he was the holder of the Ghanaian, African and Commonwealth belts.

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He went 13-0 to start his professional career. In his 14th fight as a professional, he showed the stuff that spawn legends as he stepped up against the legendary WBC featherweight champion Salvador Sanchez.

International scene…

Azumah Nelson made his first international bout at Madisen Square against the great Salvador Sanchez. After turning professional, he took a last-minute bout for the world title with Salvador Sanchez, even though he was overwhelmed in the 15th and final round, it was that bout that changed his life. From there his fame started spreading and his boxing career spiraled upwards never to decend. Two years later, in 1984, he won the WBC Featherweight World Title.

As a pro, Azumah Nelson took on all comers. The two epic battles with Jeff Fenech, the four with Jesse James Leija, the two with Gabriel Ruelas, and the two with Marcos Villasana, his one round demolition of Pat Cowdell, the epic bout against lion-hearted Jim McDonnell at the Royal Albert Hall. Jim got up from four knockdowns at the Royal Albert Hall and yet, was overcome by Azumah firing on all cylinders.

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Charlie Magri, a former World Champion himself, doffed his hat to Azumah’s magnificence. Time and time again, his opponents have praised Azumah as the consummate professional, a gentleman and a road warrior “who’d go to an opponent’s back garden or the gates of hell, and still most of the time achieve a staggering, if not swaggering victory.”

Nelson is widely considered the greatest African boxer of all time, as he held the WBC featherweight title once and the WBC super featherweight title twice.

He ended his career with a record of 47 fights; 39 wins (28 KOs), 6 losses and 2 draws.

Beyond the Ring…

After he retired in 1998, he made a brief comeback to engage lifelong rival Jeff Fenech in Australia in 2008 to raise funds for a charity project being undertaken by the Azumah Nelson Foundation.

Further, he has been actively engaged with inspiring Ghanaian high school students to focus on their studies with a programme dubbed “Time With The Professor”, which he uses to interact with selected students in the various schools across the country. Also, he is involved in boxing promotion in Ghana, partnering ‘Hemann Promotions’ to stage the popular Azumah Nelson Fight Night series.

He is also the brand ambassador of oil marketing company, GOIL and a Director at Director at Kenpong Construction & Telecom Limited. Likewise, he is into farming. His plantations produce teak wood used for telephone poles and furniture.

“I like farming. I’ve been spending a lot of my time on my farms in between travelling for WBC events. I spend part of my time to also train and mentor young boxers in Accra.”

Azumah Nelson built his career on willingness to fight anywhere at any time and having a warrior’s mentality. Nelson was a superb boxer, a slugger who throws punches from strange angles. It is no surprise he is the very FIRST African to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.


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