Azumah Nelson KO 1 Pat Cowdell - The “Terrible Warrior’s” Most Frightening KO

azumah nelson07.06.07 - By James Slater: Whenever the subject of devastating knockouts comes up, I am always reminded of one fight in particular. Or should I say, I’m always reminded of the brutal termination of one fight in particular. This awesome KO was not scored by a heavyweight, either. Nor was it scored by a fighter who’s name would spring out instantly when one was thinking about huge punchers. This is not to suggest that the man who is the subject of this article was not a capable puncher, it’s just that he is more than likely better known for his craftsmanship and excellent boxing skills, as opposed to his hitting power. He had this in his armory, too, however, as all those who can recall the fight written about here will know all too well.

Azumah Nelson, one of the greatest ever fighters to come out of Africa, was making the second defence of his WBC featherweight boxing championship. He was about to score a knockout that was nothing short of chilling in its robbing of another man’s consciousness.

Azumah had won the title just short of a year ago, with an eleventh round stoppage of the great Puerto Rican, Wilfredo Gomez. Now, in October of 1985, in the challenger’s backyard, Nelson, known as “The Terrible Warrior”, was about to make one of the most memorable defences of his long and distinguished career. The man in the opposing corner was the former undefeated British featherweight champion, former European featherweight boxing champion, and reigning European super featherweight champion, Pat Cowdell. Despite this wealth of experience, however, Pat would be no match for the superb fighting machine from Accra, Ghana.

Both men had tasted defeat in their careers, though. The pair had actually lost to the very same man in the late, great, Salvador Sanchez. Somewhat ironically, however, was the fact that Cowdell had done better in his fight with the legendary Mexican than had Nelson. Pat had gone the full fifteen rounds, losing a split decision, while Azumah had been stopped in the very last round when he’d fought Sanchez. This had a lot to do with the fact that the young and virtually unknown Nelson had accepted the fight on a mere six days notice though. Despite this, the African acquitted himself extremely well. So much so that he was avoided for some time afterwards. The win was to be Salvador’s final fight, for he was tragically killed in a road accident shortly thereafter.

Both boxers bounced back well after their loss to Sanchez, Pat collected his aforementioned European feather and super featherweight belts, and Azumah wrested the world title from Gomez. Now they would meet one another. Entering the ring on that October day, the pro records of both fighters contained boxing stats that showed their respective qualities. Aside from the loss to Sanchez, Cowdell had only been beaten on two other occasions. He had been stopped in the second round, due to a cut eye, by one Alan Robertson back in 1978, and he had lost on points over fifteen rounds to Dave Needham the following year. As for “The Terrible Warrior," his solitary defeat was the one to the late Mexican.

The hugely pro-Cowdell audience sat back in anticipation of what they felt would be a long and engrossing boxing match. Before they had barely settled into their seats, however, the fight was over with. Nelson, walking forwards with his customary high guard, caught Pat cold with an absolutely wicked left uppercut to the jaw in the very first round. The challenger fell to the canvas, utterly frozen, and remained prostrate there for quite some time. Never given a chance to even get into the fight, Cowdell had been nailed with one of the cruellest punches there is in boxing - the sucker punch. He was devastated.

In the post-fight interview Pat was inconsolable, knowing as he did that he had been caught with a shot he had no business failing to slip. This is to take nothing away from Azumah. He had just seen off one of his most talent laden challengers with seemingly effortless efficiency. He was now considered to be the number one 126 pound fighter on the planet - bar none. Pat Cowdell certainly could not disagree with such thinking!

Nelson went on to solidify his greatness with another four defences of his world title, before successfully moving up to challenge for the super featherweight championship. After retaining this title ten times, including a hard fought win over another British fighter in Jim McDonnell, Azumah was finally beaten by Jesse James Leija in 1993. Only to regain his title two years later with a win over Gabriel Ruelas. Nelson, his place in the history books firmly secure, retired after a points defeat to Leija - in what was the fourth encounter of their series - in 1998. The TKO he suffered at the hands of Sanchez marked the only time he was ever stopped in almost fifty bouts.

As for Pat, he only fought eight more times after the crushing loss to Nelson. He won the British super featherweight title during this time, but then lost it via first round KO, to Najib Daho, in his first defence. And though he get his revenge over Daho a year later, in 1987, thus regaining the British title, it was clear Cowdell was approaching the end. He retired in 1988, after a TKO loss to Floyd Havard.

Article posted on 07.06.2007

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