Azumah Nelson recognition beyond words
Last week, a memorable event which drew a large gathering of dignitaries from the social and political divide was held at the Alisa Hotel in Accra. The occasion was the launch of a book: ‘The Professor: The Life Story of Azumah Nelson.’
The title of the book speaks volumes for itself. It is about a man who, in our contemporary history, is, no doubt, the greatest sportsman whose exploits went beyond the boxing ring as the King of the Featherweights but who also carried on his small shoulders the burden of a patriot and a nationalist on the world stage.
Former President Jerry John Rawlings gave a fitting and quite inspirational speech to ignite the evening, which could be described as a summary of the feelings of an entire nation.
Those below 20 years may have heard the name but would not know that there was a time when in the face of despair and despondency most, if not all, Ghanaians were living because of one man — Azumah Zoom Zoom Nelson.
Those were the days Ghanaians of all ages would stay till the early hours to watch Azumah Nelson demolish one opponent after another. His victories were always celebrated as national victories and on the occasions of the few loses, Ghanaians spent the whole day in gloom, but they never denied him the hero's welcome he richly deserved on his return.
Azumah Nelson was a successful boxer not just because of his strength and ring craft. Others who were equally talented and even stronger fell by the wayside because of indiscipline and over-bloated ego.
Azumah was humble, selfless, disciplined and above all, he approached all his fights as national missions that must be executed and accomplished as such. He was a champion not only in the ring but also outside it.
If Azumah is a household name today, years after he had exited the ring, it is because he lived and continues to live as a selfless patriot, a humble professional and a true role model.
He changed the image of boxing from the one reserved for those who have no option and who lack the discipline and composure of proper upbringing to respectability and acceptability for those who want to make it a choice career for their future.
Azumah Nelson has paid his due and deserves all the accolades and praises. But we should go beyond words. The Azumah Nelson Sports Complex at North Kaneshie, named after this gem and patriot, is an eyesore.
The government of Ghana should either invest funds to enhance the facilities at the complex to reflect the stature of the man Azumah Nelson or change the name lest they damage the humble man's reputation.
We cannot claim to be honouring distinguished personalities by naming monuments after them only to abandon these monuments to decay. Azumah Nelson and many others deserve more than that.
NB: I dedicate this piece to the everlasting memory of Samuel Okaitey, who died while working on the Daily Graphic and whose mighty pen and immaculate string of words brought vivid commentaries of Azumah Nelson's fights to Ghanaian readers and the world at large.
Today, when we honour Azumah Nelson, it is only fair we remember the person who chronicled his exploits. Samuel Okaitey, may your soul rest in peace.