Azumah “The Professor” Nelson was born on September 19, 1958 in the newly independent Ghana. Azumah grew up in the harsh environment of the Bokum province in the Greater Accra Region of Ghana. Fighting was a hobby it was a way of life for the children of the region. In Bokum kids are 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 his father, Azumah wanted to box, and he truly believed he could beat anyone. He tried on several occasions in the streets, but was led into the gym to face the best boxer at the time. The boy beat him, but that did not matter. Azumah kept coming back and eventually was able to take on the man with success. That was when he began to train as a boxer.
After going 50-1 as an amateur and a Commonwealth championship as a featherweight, 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. He went 13-0 to start his pro-career. In his 14th fight as a pro, he showed the stuff that spawn legends as he stepped up against the legendary WBC featherweight champion, Salvador Sanchez.
In a rough and rugged fight, Nelson fought valiantly against Sanchez going toe to toe with the champion, but was stopped in the 15th round. It turned out that he was the greatest champions as Sanchez was killed in an automobile accident 22 days later.
He was 23-years-old and had earned a career record of 44-1-1 with 32 KOs. With Sanchez’s death, the boxing world was in shock. The WBC title was won by Juan La Porte on September 15, 1982 and made two successful defences before losing the title to Wilfredo Gomez on March 31, 1984. This set up Nelson’s second chance at the WBC crown.
Since his historic fight with Sanchez, Nelson went right back to his winning ways by winning six straight fights before facing Gomez. Nelson did not fail in his second attempt as he hammered Gomez eventually stopping him in the 11th round. Nelson ruled the featherweight division for three years, until he relinquished his crown to move up to super-featherweight.
Nelson went on to win the WBC super-feather title in February 1988 when he won a disputed decision over Mario Martinez. He then defended 3 times, including a rematch with Martinez whom he stopped in the 12th. In 1990, he made an attempt to move up to lightweight, but was easily out-pointed by Pernell Whitaker. Since his super-feather belt was not at stake he moved back down and went on to face such competition as Jeff Fenech (twice), Gabriel Ruelas, and a draw to Jesse James Leija.
It looked as if time had finally caught up with Nelson as he lost a rematch with Leija in his next fight. Nelson lost his next two fights to Genaro Hernandez and a fourth meeting with Leija. He then called it quit having had a successful boxing career.
He ended with a record of 39-5-2 (28 KOs) and a championship record of 18-4-2.