Azumah Nelson (born July 19, 1958)
is a Ghanaian former professional boxer. Widely considered the greatest
African boxer of all time, he held the WBC featherwight title once
and the WBC super featherweight title twice.
had a stellar amateur career, competing at the 1978 Commonwealth Games
where he won a gold medal in the Featherweight class, and compiling
an Amateur Record of 50-2.
boxing debut, in 1979, did not generate much attention, except in
Ghana, where he was known because of his family ties. Internationally,
Nelson lacked the recognition for such an event to be given its due
importance. With the years, however, all of that changed because he
garnered worldwide fame as a boxer.
He beat Billy Kwame in Accra
by a decision in eight to mark his professional debut. In his third
fight, he fought on March 3, 1980, he knocked out Henry Sadler in
the ninth round to win Ghana's regional 126 pound title. On December
13 of that year, he knocked out Joe Skipper in round 10 to add the
African continent's belt to his Ghanaian regional championship.
1981, Nelson beat Bozzou Aziza in Togo; it was Nelson's first fight
abroad. He then beat Miguel Ruiz in his first United States fight,
held in California. He added the Commonwealth of Nations' Featherweight
title with a fifth round knockout of Brian Roberts.
all his early achievements and being undefeated in 13 fights, Nelson
was virtually unkown outside Ghana. Because of this, he was a decisive
underdog when he challenged WBC featherweight champion Salvador Sanchez
on July 21, 1982 at the Madison Square Garden in New York. Despite
losing that fight by a knockout in round 15, Nelson's stock as a boxer
rose after that fight, and he established himself as a deserving leading
contender in the eyes of many fans. Further, Nelson was put at a significant
disadvantage when his custom mouthpiece was stolen and he had to make
do with a makeshift one purchased from a store and cut to his mouth
with a knife, leaving him in pain for the whole fight. The Sanchez-Nelson
fight would be Salvador Sanchez's last fight, as he died almost two
months later after suffering a car accident in Mexico City.
his next fight, Nelson knocked out fringe contender Irving Mitchell
in eight rounds.
World featherweight champion
Nelson won all
four of his fights in 1983, and he began 1984 by beating Hector Cortez
by decision on March 9 in Las Vegas. Then, on December 8 of that year,
he became boxing royalty by knocking out Wilfredo Gomez in round 11
to win the WBC featherweight championship. Behind on the three judges'
scorecards, Nelson rallied in that last round to become champion in
Nelson held on to that title for three years. He
could not fight for 9 months after the Gomez bout, but when he returned,
he retained the title in Miami with a fifth round knockout of Juvenal
Ordenes in September 1985, and then in October of that year, he retained
it again with a first round knockout of Pat Cowdell in Birmingham,
England. The Cowdell knockout in particular became a highlight film
material" Cowdell was left frozen on the canvas by Nelson's knockout
In 1986, he retained the title two times, beating future
world champion Marcos Villasana and former Barry McGuigan challenger
Danilo Cabrera (once again, in Puerto Rico).
In 1987, Nelson
retained the title against Mauro Guitierrez, by a knockout in round
six, and in a rematch with Villasana, once again, by decision. After
the second fight with Villasana, Nelson abandoned the WBC title.