Book review: The Professor, The Life Story of Azumah Nelson by Ashley Morrison

Book review:  The Professor, The Life Story of Azumah Nelson by Ashley Morrison
Book review:  The Professor, The Life Story of Azumah Nelson by Ashley Morrison

Ashley Morrison has created a masterpiece, brilliantly relating the life story of by far the greatest boxing champion to emerge from Africa…. so far.

Azumah Nelson- the precocious youngster who, as a late replacement with only thirteen pro fights and just seventeen days to prepare, dared to take on the mighty Salvador Sánchez! And gave him the scare of his life, before finally being overwhelmed in the fifteenth and final round!

The Professor, coverBut this was not the beginning of the end…it was just the end of the beginning. “The Professor” was three times world champion in two weight divisions, namely feather and super feather.
To win his first championship, he audaciously went to Puerto Rico and stopped the legendary Wilfredo Gomez in eleven power slugging rounds. Ashley well captures the boiling point atmosphere and the blow by blow warfare of two great fighters, with no quarter asked and no quarter given. And, courtesy of post fight reaction, Azumah’s promoter Carl King literally realized from a disappointed fan, that this young man from Ghana, was a cut above the rest!

A tough but active childhood moulded the man. An often unsmiling boy who learned to hussle young, and to be innovative plus resourceful. Alongside his lifelong friend Obi Oblitey, young Azumah empowered his developing physique, by climbing trees for coconuts, pounding a maize like substance called foo-foo, and working in a rock quarry loading up trucks in double quick time. He was given the nickname Small, but the impatient drivers soon realized that he was the quickest and by far the strongest!

A glittering amateur career, followed in which Azumah won the African Championship and Commonwealth Gold, but missed out on Olympic glory due to the 1980 Moscow Oympic boycott.
Ashley fascinatingly reveals the complicated and sometimes back biting politics of the then amateur scene, with twists and turns at every point.

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, the two with Marcos Villasana. His one round demoltion of my good friend Pat Cowdell, the epic war against lion hearted Jim McDonnell at the Royal Albert Hall. Brave Jim got up from four knockdowns and was overcome late by Azumah firing on all cylinders. Charlie Magri in Jim’s corner, as an ex World Champion himself, doffed his hat to Azumah’s magnificence. So for that matter…. did a rueful Jim!

Time and time again his opponents praise Azumah as the consumate professional, a gentleman, 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.

The agony of fighting Pernell Whittaker for the WBC lightweight title, as his first Wife Beatrice was tragically loosing her battle against cáncer, and then his determination to continue with his fabled career. And finding great love and happiness again with his second Wife Peggy.

Ashley is careful to trace the foundations of The Professor’s greatness, at the Akotoku Boxing Academy with inspirational and exceptionally talented Coach Attuquaye Clottey. The fact that Azumah via his fight contracts, made sure that his most loyal fans in Ghana were able to see his fights on televison, more often than not, paying for the transmissions himself!

This book traces, etches and paints with generous brush strokes a blow by blow portrait of a remarkable man. An all time great Champion in the ring, but an even greater one outside of it. This is so often the case with the World Boxing Council’s hands on superstars. The WBC is distinguished by the sheer quality of its greatest asset….it’s people!

For boxing purists this is a wonderful read. For someone who knows next to nothing about boxing it’s still a great book that you simply won’t be able to put down, because it chronicles the life and times of an extraordinary man who’s adored by the people of Ghana and by his fans the World over.
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A genuine hero.

By: James Blears