Azumah Nelson: Africa's greatest boxer from Ghana

Stories and facts

In the annals of boxing history, certain names resonate as legends, transcending the boundaries of the sport and becoming cultural icons. Azumah Nelson, born on July 19, 1958, in Ghana, is one such figure. Affectionately known as "The Professor," Nelson's boxing career is a remarkable tale of talent, perseverance, and a relentless pursuit of greatness. From his humble beginnings to becoming a three-time world champion, Azumah Nelson's journey is a testament to the indomitable spirit of African athletes. This article delves into the life and career of Azumah Nelson, celebrating his achievements inside and outside the boxing ring.

Before conquering the world of professional boxing, Azumah Nelson honed his skills as an amateur boxer. In 1978, he participated in two prestigious events, the All-Africa Games and the Commonwealth Games. At both competitions, Nelson showcased his prowess in the featherweight division, clinching gold medals. His stellar performances earned him the title of Amateur Boxer of the Year by the Sports Writers Association of Ghana (SWAG) in the same year. These early victories set the stage for his remarkable journey in the world of boxing.

Azumah Nelson's transition from the amateur ranks to professional boxing was marked by an impressive winning streak. Undefeated in his first 13 fights, Nelson's talent was evident, but he remained relatively unknown outside of Ghana. However, destiny had something extraordinary in store for him.

I'm a servant – God brought me to serve the people, especially the needy children. I want to see everybody smile.

On July 21, 1982, with short notice, Azumah Nelson stepped into the ring at the Madison Square Garden in New York to challenge the formidable WBC featherweight champion, Salvador Sánchez. Despite facing an uphill battle, Nelson's performance was nothing short of spectacular. He fought valiantly, but ultimately, he succumbed to a fifteenth-round knockout. While the result was a loss, Nelson's resilience and determination had caught the attention of the boxing world.

The turning point in Azumah Nelson's career came in 1984. On December 8 of that year, he achieved a historic victory by knocking out Wilfredo Gómez in the eleventh round, clinching the WBC featherweight championship. It was a remarkable comeback victory for Nelson, who had been trailing on the judges' scorecards. His triumph in Puerto Rico not only earned him the world title but also solidified his status as a force to be reckoned with in the sport.

Azumah Nelson's journey to greatness did not end with the featherweight title. In 1988, he added another chapter to his storied career by winning the vacant WBC super-featherweight title. This victory, albeit controversial due to a knockdown Nelson suffered in the tenth round, established him as a two-weight world champion.

Azumah Nelson with his title

On December 1, 1995, Nelson once again demonstrated his resilience and skill by defeating world champion Gabriel Ruelas in the fifth round, claiming the super-featherweight title. His ability to bounce back from adversity and his tenacious fighting style endeared him to fans worldwide.

While Azumah Nelson's boxing achievements are awe-inspiring, his impact transcends the boxing ring. In his homeland of Ghana, the Azumah Nelson Sports Complex in Kaneshie, Accra, stands as a testament to his enduring legacy. Moreover, in 2014, a biography titled "The Professor - The Life Story of Azumah Nelson" was published, shedding light on his remarkable journey.

Azumah Nelson is not just a boxing legend but also a family man. He has six children, including his son Dalvin Azumah Nelson Junior, whom he is training as a boxer. Moreover, he is married to Priscilla Boakye Nelson.

In July 2018, Azumah Nelson celebrated his 60th birthday in a unique way. He organized a fight night at the Bukom Boxing Arena, bringing together fighters from renowned gyms in Ghana. The event was graced by dignitaries and featured five bouts, with three ending in knockout victories.

Today, Azumah Nelson's nickname, "The Professor," holds new significance. In retirement, he has dedicated his time and passion to nurturing the talents of young boxers. He established the Azumah Nelson Foundation, a not-for-profit organization aimed at empowering Ghana's underprivileged youth through education and sport. The foundation identifies and supports talented children, emphasizing the importance of education alongside boxing training.

Azumah Nelson believes that boxing can be a path for children to escape poverty and hardship. He sees himself as a servant, called to serve the needy children of his country. His ultimate goal is to bring smiles to the faces of all those he touches through his foundation's work.

Azumah Nelson's life and career embody the spirit of triumph over adversity. From a relatively unknown boxer in Ghana to a global boxing icon, his journey inspires generations. As "The Professor," he imparts not only boxing lessons but also life lessons to the youth of Ghana. Azumah Nelson's legacy continues to shine as a beacon of hope and resilience, both in and out of the boxing ring.



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