Day Azumah Nelson installed monarchy

December 8, 2019

On this day, 8 December 1984 (Exactly 35 years ago today), Ghana’s Azumah Nelson won Ghana’s second world title in boxing after defeating Wilfredo Gomez to win the WBC featherweight title at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico

By the age of 26, Wilfredo Gomez had seen more successful title defenses of one belt than most fighters could experience in multiple careers. A record 17 defenses of the WBC junior featherweight belt, all by stoppage, and a shiny WBC featherweight prize are what Gomez brought into the ring against “The Professor” himself, Azumah Nelson.

When most press reported Gerry Cooney vs. George Chaplin as the main event of the December 8, 1984 card, Greg Simms of the Plain Dealer called that line of thinking “blatant ignorance of the fight game,” as a defense of the WBC featherweight belt by Gomez, not far from home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, against a finely-edged anvil like Nelson deserved top billing.

A more sombre way of looking at it, however, was that it was a bout between the last two men Salvador Sanchez sent home early before his premature death in a 1982 auto accident

A pre-fight wire report out of Puerto Rico quoted Gomez — 41-1-1 with 40 knockouts going into the fight — as saying, “Nelson comes from Ghana with hopes to win, but lamentably, this title will stay here because it belongs to Puerto Ricans. My goal is to win three world titles, and Nelson is not going to block my career.

But Nelson was fully intent on blocking both Gomez’s career and his plans to face a young and newly-belted Julio Cesar Chavez, even if doing it in Puerto Rico, at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan, would make the task all the more difficult. The Ghana native, 19-1 with 14 knockouts, said via Associated Press wire, “I won’t have a problem. I’ll knock out Gomez in the fifth round.”

Late legendary trainer Eddie Futch’s made his own prediction, stating, “I think Nelson does hit hard enough to knock out Gomez, but I hardly think that’s likely. I would have to pick Gomez to win because of his overall ability and punching power.”

Gomez fought with caution early in the bout, seemingly wary of Nelson’s strength and countering ability. At face value, Wilfredo Gomez did well when moving his feet and whipping out jabs; psychologically, Azumah Nelson was answering back and sealing off Gomez’s offensive momentum more often than not

Just as Gomez seemed to be finding a groove, Nelson landed a series of right hands in round 4 that negated what the Puerto Rican had done and filled Nelson with confidence that carried through into the 5th. But as Nelson pressed with bad intentions and Gomez was forced to stand and fight more in the 6th, fortune inched Gomez’s way.

Something of a tactical slugfest, if such a thing exists, spilled forth in round 7, with Nelson landing the more eye-popping blows upstairs but taking countless shots to the pelvis and sides in turn. As Gomez’s wick burned away, however, the fight went back to how it looked early: Nelson hunting, Gomez boxing cautiously. The 9th round saw Gomez seize back a chunk of the momemtum, but he found himself on the wrong end of more Nelson right hands in the 10th and looked ragged between rounds as a result.

Moments before the bell to summon for the 11th round, Nelson’s cornerman Bill Prezant reportedly told his man that he was losing and needed to “step it up.”

Surprisingly, judges indeed had the bout scored 97-93 and 96-95 for Gomez, and 95-95. And like an excellent pupil rather than a professor, Nelson unleashed an entire hive on Gomez, stinging him repeatedly with both hands and every available punch for two and a half minutes, until Gomez finally went down.

Up but looking worn, a pair of right hands ransacked Gomez’s neurons and awkwardly folded him backward, ending the fight.

“When I knocked [Gomez] down in round eleven, he was dazed,” Nelson said in “The Professor,” his 2014 biography. “The referee had to stop the fight, but the referee tried to help him and let him carry on. I came in and I feigned him and then threw a straight right, and he fell to the ground. He was not supposed to take that punch, and he wouldn’t have had to if the referee stopped it when he should have.”

In Ghana the streets were flooded with people celebrating. The broadcast had been delayed due to issues with the international video feed, but the Ghanaian government purchased rights to air the bout and make the fight accessible to everyone in the country.

Back in Puerto Rico there was plenty of in-ring pandemonium, and the Boston Herald reported the following day that Carl King, son of Nelson’s promoter Don King, was stabbed in the leg on the way from the ring to the dressing room.

It wouldn’t be the first time, but Nelson’s win made his country quake with pride. As with every win, there must be a loser. This time it was Gomez, who never truly reclaimed the success he had prior to running into Sanchez and Nelson. His career was ultimately the price of their greatness

Elsewhere;.

0n this day 8 December 2002 (Exactly 17 years ago today) Kumasi became a virtual cemetery when home side, Kumasi Asante Kotoko, lost the CAF Winners Cup to Wydad Athletic Club of Morocco in the final match played in Kumasi

Though Kotoko won 2-1 to bring the overall score to 2-2 on aggregate, the Moroccans won the cup on the away goal rule. It was a total disbelief and consternation when Egyptian referee El-Ghandour blew his whistle to signify the end of the game as the supporters remained glued to their seats while the Moroccans jubilated.

In a match watched by Vice President Aliu Mahama in which Kotoko was expected to win to give Ghana her first win of the Cup Winners cup, the porcupine warriors disappointed their fans badly.

In losing the cup, Kotoko must blame themselves since they approached the match as if there was nothing at stake, especially during the first half.

They appeared sluggish and allowed the Moroccans a lot of room to manipulate and operate as they were faster and won all the 50-50 balls and virtually forced Kotoko to play to their style.

The first half was not particularly exciting but it was Wydad who threatened a goal in the 34th minute as Joe Hendricks cleared the ball off the itching foot of Kassab Boujemaa. Wydad whose defensive strategy in this half confused Kotoko, almost always took the ball away from the homesters anytime they entered the goal area.

However, in the 41st minute, Aziz Ansah’s throw in caught the Wydad defence off guard but Shilla Alhassan could not reach the ball as it was cleared by the defence. Two minutes later, Kwadwo Poku who was a virtual passenger had a through pass from Shilla Alhassan, but before he could get his foot to it the ball was cleared.

Kotoko who were gradually beginning to assert themselves, worked the ball into their opponents goal area in the 44th minute but Hamza Mohammed shot erratically with his left from Shilla’s pass.

With a possible defeat staring them in the face, Kotoko started the second half on a fast note and nearly got the opener in the 50th minute but the Wydad defence cleared the ball Goalkeeper Jarmouni Taril of Wydad was shown the yellow card in the 46th minute for hitting Aziz Ansah after both of them had jumped for a high ball.

Two minutes later, Kotoko earned a corner kick but wasted it. In another minute, goalkeeper Tarik denied Shilla Alhassan a goal when he tried to flick the ball past him.

Wydad nearly broke the hearts of the teeming Kotoko supporters when Erraji Mourad beat the offside trap and forced goalkeeper Osei Boateng to come out to challenge him but in the process he shot wide.

However, Kotoko were not to be denied a goal as Aziz Ansah shot his side into the lead in the 55th minute. Kotoko pulled out Kwadwo Poku in the 68th minute and brought in Frank Osei while Wydad also sent in Bahafid Omar for El Janab in the 74th minute.

These changes seemed to have benefited Wydad who equalised in the 75th minute through Talhar Moustapha from Kassan Boujemaa’s corner kick which he directed to the blind side of goalkeeper Osei Boateng.

Most of the fans became so downhearted after the equaliser that they started leaving the stadium knowing that the cup had eluded their darling club.

However, Kotoko rallied round again and in the 84th minute, Michael Osei sent the fans jubilating again as he restored Kotoko’s lead and, with that, a ray of hope appeared that Kotoko could pull the chestnut out of the blazing fire. But their hopes were dashed as Kotoko could not find the third goal tried as they did.

On this day 8 December 2007 (Exactly 12 years ago today)Floyd Mayweather Jr put on a vintage display to stop Ricky Hatton in the 10th round and retain his WBC welterweight crown in Las Vegas.

Manchester’s Hatton, 29, applied most of the pressure in the early rounds and found some success with some big lefts.

But Mayweather let his hands go in the middle rounds, with his fierce left finding its target as Hatton attacked.

And the champion floored Hatton with two big lefts in the 10th before ending it with a devastating left hook.

With the strains of Blue Moon still ringing in his ears, light-welterweight king Hatton started quicker and wobbled Mayweather with two big right hands in the first round.

Mayweather started to find his range in round two, landing with one sweet right from way back, although Hatton appeared to nick the third courtesy of some powerful lefts to the body

Hometown fighter Mayweather stepped up a gear in round four, sending home one huge right to the head and picking the challenger off with some dazzling combinations.

Hatton’s corner went to work on a cut over his left eye at the end of the round and it was becoming clear that the champion’s slick shots were taking their toll.

Mayweather was happy to soak up Hatton’s constant pressure in round five, but round six proved to be the turning point of the fight, with Mayweather landing at will with flashing left hooks and jabs and Hatton having a point deducted by referee Joe Cortez for clubbing right to the back of the neck.

Surprisingly, Mayweather was happy to fight inside for long periods and by the seventh round it was clear he was as strong as Hatton and had the measure of him at close range.

He continued to pick Hatton off with counters before jolting ‘The Hitman’ with a crunching right hand just before the end of the round.

Mayweather started to show the full range of his talents in round eight, sending home a stinging right cross and a left-right combination to the body that had Hatton grimacing.

Mayweather then let go with two lefts that sent Hatton reeling before befuddling Hatton further with nine or 10 unanswered punches.

Hatton became an easier target the longer the fight wore on, and in the battle of the jabs, Mayweather was king, landing 40% to the Englishman’s 17%.

Round nine was all Mayweather, the Michigan native teeing off on Hatton with quicksilver lefts and stiff rights and finishing off the round with two stabbing jabs.

Before the 10th round, Hatton’s fans were acutely aware that their hero was in need of a knockout, but the fairytale ending was not forthcoming.

Mayweather landed with two huge left hooks that sent Hatton sprawling and sent him to the canvas again with a tremendous left hook.

Referee Cortez called a halt to proceedings before Hatton had hit the floor, a minute and 35 seconds into the round, leaving ‘The Hitman’s’ legion of fans stunned.

The judges’ scores at the time of the stoppage were: 88-82, 89-81, 89-81.

Mayweather, often maligned for being cocky, was admirable and gracious in victory, hurrying to check up on and praise his vanquished foe.

“He kept coming and I see why they call him the Hitman. He’s one hell of a fighter but I took care of business and did the job,” said Mayweather.

“I wanted to show the fans that I still got it. I have nothing else to prove to the world.”

Hatton, who lost his first fight in 44 contests, suggested that he would continue to box despite the pain of defeat.

“I’m the best at light-welter and I fought the best at welter. I’d rather give praise to my opponent. My pride is hurt more than the punches.”

 

STORIES: GEORGE MAHAMAH


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