Azumah Nelson

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Azumah Nelson
Nickname(s)The Professor
Zoom Zoom
The Terrible Warrior[1]
Super featherweight
Height1.65 m (5 ft 5 in)
Reach173 cm (68 in)
Born (1958-07-19) 19 July 1958 (age 60)
Accra, Ghana
Boxing record
Total fights47
Wins by KO28

Azumah Nelson (born 19 July 1958) is a Ghanaian former professional boxer. Widely considered the greatest African boxer of all time,[2][3] and is currently the 17th greatest pound for pound boxer of all time in Boxrec's ranking,[4] he held the WBC featherweight title once and the WBC super featherweight title twice.

Amateur career[edit]

Nelson had a stellar amateur career, competing at the 1978 All-Africa Games and 1978 Commonwealth Games where he won gold medals in the Featherweight class, and compiling an Amateur Record of 50–2.

Professional career[edit]

Nelson's professional 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 3 March 1980, he knocked out Henry Sadler in the ninth round to win Ghana's regional 126-pound title. On 13 December of that year, he knocked out Joe Skipper in round 10 to add the African continent's belt to his Ghanaian regional championship.

In 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.

Despite all his early achievements and being undefeated in 13 fights, Nelson was virtually unknown outside Ghana.[5] Because of this, he was a decisive underdog when he challenged WBC featherweight champion Salvador Sánchez on 21 July 1982 at the Madison Square Garden in New York.[5] 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 Sánchez-Nelson fight would be Salvador Sánchez's last fight, as he died almost two months later after suffering a car accident in Mexico City.

In his next fight, Nelson knocked out fringe contender Irving Mitchell in eight rounds.

World featherweight champion[edit]

Nelson won all four of his fights in 1983, and he began 1984 by beating Hector Cortez by decision on 9 March in Las Vegas. Then, on 8 December of that year, he became boxing royalty by knocking out Wilfredo Gómez in round 11 to win the WBC featherweight championship.[6] Behind on the three judges' scorecards, Nelson rallied in that last round to become champion in Puerto Rico.

Nelson held on to that title for three years. He could not fight for 9 months after the Gómez 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 punch.

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.

Super featherweight[edit]

Nelson began 1988 by defeating Mario Martinez by a split decision over 12 rounds in Los Angeles to win the vacant WBC super featherweight title. Nelson was dropped in the 10th round of their encounter and the decision was not well received.[7] He defended the title with a knockout in round nine against former world champ Lupe Suarez, and with a knockout in three over Sydney Del Rovere.

He proceeded in 1989 by beating Martinez in a rematch, by knockout in round 12, and then fighting Jim McDonnell, with exactly the same result. The fight with McDonnell, fought in London, was considered one of the fights of the year by many boxing magazines, and McDonnell was widely praised by critics for his stand against Nelson. McDonnell suffered four knockdowns before the fight was stopped by referee Joe Cortez.

On 19 May 1990, Nelson tried to join the exclusive group of three-division world champion boxers by challenging world lightweight champion Pernell Whitaker, but he was handed his second career loss. when Whitaker won a 12-round unanimous decision to retain the title. For his next fight, he went to Australia to meet the former world Featherweight champion, Puerto Rico's Juan Laporte. He beat Laporte by a decision in 12 to retain the world Jr. Lightweight title.

In 1991, he had only two fights. In Spain, he beat Daniel Mustapha by a knockout in round four of a non-title bout, and then, in Las Vegas, he retained the title with a controversial draw against three-weight world champion Jeff Fenech. Many ringside observers and boxing writers felt Fenech had deserved to win that night, and an immediate rematch was signed and set for 1 March 1992.

Back in Australia, Nelson defeated Fenech by a knockout in round eight of their sequel, and then he retained the title with a 12-round decision over former world champion Calvin Grove on 7 November.

On 20 February 1993, the world travelling champion defeated future world champion Gabriel Ruelas by decision in 12 in front of 120,000 fans (most of whom had come to watch Julio César Chávez defend his world title against Greg Haugen in the evening's main event) in Mexico.[8] The 120,000 fan turnout was the largest ever for a boxing event. Then, on 10 September, he began his four fights series with future world champion Jesse James Leija by retaining the title with a draw as part of the Julio César Chávez-Pernell Whitaker fight's undercard in San Antonio. Originally announced as a winner, Nelson found out minutes later when Leija was being interviewed that the correct outcome was a draw, giving Leija a rematch. The fight's announcer had accidentally mixed the scorecards and announced Nelson the winner. Even though the decision was changed to draw, Nelson still kept his title.

On 7 May 1994, he and Leija met for the second time: That time around, the announcer was right when he announced Leija was winner and new world champion. That was Nelson's only bout in 1994.

Leija quickly lost the title to Ruelas, who defended against Nelson on 1 December 1995, and Nelson recovered the title in his rematch with Ruelas by knocking him out in round five.

His first defense took place almost a year later, when he and Leija had their third bout. Nelson retained the title with a six-round knockout. As had become his common practice, that was the only time Nelson fought in 1996.[9]

In 1997, Nelson lost the Lineal & WBC titles to Genaro Hernandez when beaten on points in twelve rounds.[10] He was almost disqualified when he accidentally hit Hernandez in the throat after the bell to finish round seven and Hernandez lay on the floor for several minutes. However, Hernandez chose to continue, allowing Nelson to lose by the more honorable way of the judge's decision.

In 1998, he lost to Leija in their fourth and final bout in the lightweight division, but Nelson realized his best days in boxing were over, and he retired.

Nelson had a record of 39 wins, 6 losses and 2 draws, with 28 knockout wins.

Longtime Trainer Buffalo Martin Dies[edit]

Nelson's longtime boxing trainer, Joe 'Buffalo' Martin, was killed in a car crash in January 1998. He then trained with Joe Goossen. However, despite several comeback attempts in the next 10 years, Nelson never won a bout again without Buffalo in his corner.[11]

First Comeback Attempt in 2008[edit]

Sixteen years after their last meeting, Nelson fought a rematch with lifelong rival Jeff Fenech. Nelson, 49, and Fenech, 44, fought in Australia on 24 June 2008, with Jeff Fenech winning a majority decision.

Grooming his son Azumah Nelson Junior to be a boxer[edit]

Azumah Nelson Junior, is Nelson's son and an amateur boxer. He is being trained by and has the backing of his father, who is confident in him dominating the sport. Azumah Junior has set his sights on becoming a greater legend than his father.[12]

Official professional boxing record[edit]

39 Wins (28 Knockouts), 6 Defeats (1 Knockout), 2 Draws[13]
Res. Record Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes
Loss 39–6–2 Australia Jeff Fenech MD 10 2008-06-24 Australia Hisense Arena, Melbourne, Victoria
Loss 39–5–2 United States Jesse James Leija UD 12 1998-07-11 United States Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Loss 39–4–2 United States Genaro Hernández SD 12 1997-03-22 United States Memorial Coliseum, Corpus Christi, Texas Lost WBC and Lineal Super Featherweight title.
Win 39–3–2 United States Jesse James Leija TKO 6 (12), 1:58 1996-06-01 United States Boulder Station, Las Vegas, Nevada Retained WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Azumah Nelson gained Lineal champion recognition by Cyber Boxing Zone
Win 38–3–2 Mexico Gabriel Ruelas TKO 5 (12), 1:12 1995-12-01 United States Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, Indio, California Won WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Loss 37–3–2 United States Jesse James Leija UD 12 1994-05-07 United States MGM Grand, Las Vegas, Nevada Lost WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Draw 37–2–2 United States Jesse James Leija PTS 12 1993-09-10 United States Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas Retained WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Win 37–2–1 Mexico Gabriel Ruelas MD 12 1993-02-20 Mexico Estadio Azteca, Mexico City, Distrito Federal Retained WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Win 36–2–1 United States Calvin Grove UD 12 1992-11-07 United States Caesars Tahoe, Stateline, Nevada Retained WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Win 35–2–1 Australia Jeff Fenech TKO 8 (12), 2:20 1992-03-01 Australia Princes Park Football Ground, Melbourne, Victoria Retained WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Draw 34–2–1 Australia Jeff Fenech PTS 12 1991-06-28 United States The Mirage, Las Vegas, Nevada Retained WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Win 34–2 Ghana Daniel Mustapha KO 4 1991-03-16 Spain Polideportivo Principal Felipe, Zaragoza, Aragón
Win 33–2 Puerto Rico Juan Laporte UD 12 1990-10-13 Australia Sydney Entertainment Centre, Sydney, New South Wales Retained WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Loss 32–2 United States Pernell Whitaker UD 12 1990-05-19 United States Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nevada For WBC & IBF World Lightweight titles.
Win 32–1 United Kingdom Jim McDonnell TKO 12 (12) 1989-11-05 United Kingdom Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London Retained WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Win 31–1 Mexico Mario Martínez TKO 12 (12), 1:18 1989-02-25 United States Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada Retained WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Win 30–1 Brazil Sidnei Dal Rovere TKO 3 (12), 2:04 1988-12-10 Ghana Accra Sports Stadium, Accra Retained WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Win 29–1 United States Lupe Suarez TKO 9(12), 0:27 1988-06-25 United States Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, Atlantic City, New Jersey Retained WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Win 28–1 Mexico Mario Martínez SD 12 1988-02-29 United States Great Western Forum, Inglewood, California Won vacant WBC World Super Featherweight title.
Win 27–1 Mexico Marcos Villasana UD 12 1987-08-29 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California Retained WBC World Featherweight title.
Win 26–1 Mexico Mauro Gutierrez KO 6 (12), 0:33 1987-03-07 United States Hilton Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada Retained WBC World Featherweight title.
Win 25–1 Ghana Aaron Duribe KO 6 1986-12-13 Ghana Accra
Win 24–1 Dominican Republic Danilo Cabrera TKO 10 (12), 2:31 1986-06-22 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan Retained WBC World Featherweight title.
Win 23–1 Mexico Marcos Villasana MD 12 1986-02-25 United States Inglewood Forum, Los Angeles, California Retained WBC World Featherweight title.
Win 22–1 United Kingdom Pat Cowdell KO 1 (12), 2:24 1985-10-12 United Kingdom National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, West Midlands Retained WBC World Featherweight title.
Win 21–1 Chile Juvenal Ordenes TKO 5 (12), 2:45 1985-09-06 United States Tamiami Park, Miami, Florida Retained WBC World Featherweight title.
Win 20–1 Puerto Rico Wilfredo Gómez KO 11 (12), 2:58 1984-12-08 Puerto Rico Hiram Bithorn Stadium, San Juan Won WBC World Featherweight title.
Win 19–1 Ecuador Hector Cortez UD 10 1984-03-09 United States Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
Win 18–1 Nigeria Kabiru Akindele KO 9 (15) 1983-11-23 Nigeria Lagos Retained Commonwealth (British Empire) Featherweight title.
Win 17–1 United States Alberto Collazo TKO 2 (10), 1:40 1983-09-23 United States Richfield Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio
Win 16–1 United States Alvin Fowler TKO 2 1983-08-17 United States Showboat Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Win 15–1 United States Ricky Wallace TKO 2 1983-02-12 United States Public Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio
Win 14–1 United States Irving Mitchell TKO 5 (10) 1982-10-31 United States Great Gorge Resort, McAfee, New Jersey
Loss 13–1 Mexico Salvador Sánchez TKO 15 (15), 1:49 1982-07-21 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York For WBC World Featherweight title.
Win 13–0 Ghana Mukaila Bukare TKO 6 1982-06-26 Ghana Accra
Win 12–0 Zambia Charm Chiteule TKO 10 (15) 1982-02-28 Zambia Woodlands Stadium, Lusaka Retained Commonwealth (British Empire) Featherweight title.
Win 11–0 Nigeria Kabiru Akindele KO 6 (15) 1981-12-04 Sierra Leone Freetown Retained Commonwealth (British Empire) Featherweight title.
Win 10–0 Australia Brian Roberts TKO 5 (15) 1981-09-26 Ghana Accra Sports Stadium, Accra Won vacant Commonwealth (British Empire) Featherweight title.
Win 9–0 Mexico Miguel Ruiz TKO 3 1981-08-18 United States Bakersfield Civic Auditorium, Bakersfield, California
Win 8–0 United Kingdom Don George KO 5 (10), 0:54 1981-05-02 Ghana Accra Sports Stadium, Accra
Win 7–0 Togo Aziza Bossou PTS 10 1981-02-24 Togo Stade General Eyadema, Lomé
Win 6–0 Nigeria Joe Skipper PTS 10 1980-12-13 Ghana Accra Sports Stadium, Accra Won African Boxing Union Featherweight title.
Win 5–0 United States David Capo PTS 10 1980-07-04 Ghana Accra
Win 4–0 Ghana Abdul Rahman Optoki KO 8 (12), 1:11 1980-04-19 Ghana Accra Retained Ghanaian Featherweight title.
Win 3–0 Ghana Henry Saddler KO 9 (12) 1980-03-03 Ghana Accra Won Ghanaian Featherweight title.
Win 2–0 Ghana Nii Nuer KO 3 (8) 1980-02-02 Ghana Kaneshie Sports Complex, Accra
Win 1–0 Ghana Billy Kwame PTS 6 1979-12-01 Ghana Accra Sports Stadium, Accra Professional Debut

Status in Ghana today[edit]

Nelson gained national hero status in Ghana. He is widely recognized by boxing fans and critics as the greatest fighter ever to come out of this coastal African nation. He was selected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame on 8 January 2004. He was inducted 13 June 2004. He is also a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame.

Nelson also has endured personal loss – his wife of many years died during the 1990s of cancer.


The Azumah Nelson Sports Complex at Kaneshie in Accra was named after him.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BOXING; A Fight for Recognition and 2 Titles". 19 May 1990. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  2. ^ Errol Barnett (11 August 2012). "Is Azumah Nelson Africa's greatest boxer?". CNN. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  3. ^ Timothy W. Smith (11 July 1998). "Story: BOXING: The Best Boxer Nobody Knows; After 19 Years, the Career of a Ghanaian Legend Nears an End". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  4. ^ Boxrec all time p4p rankings
  5. ^ a b Michael Katz (22 July 1982). "SANCHEZ KNOCKS OUT NELSON IN THE 15TH". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  6. ^ "Nelson takes Title". The New York Times. 10 December 1984.
  7. ^ GUSTKEY, EARL (1 March 1988). "Age and Zaragoza Catch Up With Zarate : Nelson Takes Unpopular Split Decision for Super-Featherweight Title". Retrieved 20 July 2017 – via LA Times.
  8. ^ Steve Springer (2 December 1995). "Ruelas Is KO'd by Nelson, Specter : Boxing: Champion loses his WBC title to 37-year-old challenger after "seeing" boxer who died after his previous fight". LA Times. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  9. ^ Tim Kawakami (2 June 1996). "Nelson Retains WBC Title With a Sixth-Round TKO". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  10. ^ "Azumah Nelson - Lineal Jr. Lightweight Champion". The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia.
  11. ^ Michael Rosenthal (20 April 1998). "JOE GOOSSEN HAS MOVED OVER TO CORNER OF EX-RIVAL NELSON.(SPORTS)". High Beam Researcher. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Azumah Nelson's Professional Boxing Record". BoxRec. Archived from the original on 10 April 2013. Retrieved 17 January 2012.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Wilfredo Gómez
WBC Featherweight Champion
8 December 1984 – 1988
Title last held by
Jeff Fenech
Title last held by
Julio César Chávez
WBC Super Featherweight Champion
29 February 1988 – 7 May 1994
Succeeded by
Jesse James Leija
Preceded by
Gabriel Ruelas
WBC Super Featherweight Champion
1 December 1995 – 22 March 1997
Succeeded by
Genaro Hernández
Title last held by
Brian Mitchell
Lineal Super Featherweight Champion
1996 – 22 March 1997
Buster Douglas
KO10 Mike Tyson
The Ring Magazine Upset of the Year
KO8 Jeff Fenech

Simon Brown KO4
Terry Norris