Why JJ Rawlings And I Never Talked About God - Azumah Nelson Explains

The strong relationship that existed between late president Jerry John Rawlings and iconic boxer Azumah Nelson is well told with the boxer consistently professing his appreciation and respect for Rawlings for the instrumental role he played in his life.

From the ‘gari and beans’ stories, to how Rawlings set him on the path of success by advising him to focus on boxing instead of his lifelong dream of becoming a military officer, Azumah Nelson and Jerry John Rawlings clearly had a relationship to admire.

However, there was one aspect of life that never featured in the conversations between Azumah Nelson and Jerry John Rawlings. The topic of religion.

 According to Azumah, while he had conversations with Rawlings on almost every facet of life, they never discussed religion or God.

Azumah clarified in an interview with Dan Kwaku Yeboah that their failure to discuss their faith was not because they were both against religion or faith but rather due to his reverence for Rawlings as a man with superior knowledge than him when it came to matters relative to religion or faith.

“I never discussed Christ with Rawlings because I believed he was ahead of me and knew better than me. I didn’t discuss Christianity and those kinds of things with him. But among my peers, I do that. I advise them to commit to God and give Him their lives. I preach to them against vices”.

In the same interview, Azumah Nelson offered his views on the issue of spirituality in sports, particularly boxing, where he distinguished himself.

Azumah Nelson belongs to the school of thought that believes that spirituality is a common feature of sports and shared a personal story to validate his belief.

“I used to pray before my fights, and I received revelations from God. Ahead of my first fight with Gabriel Ruelas in Mexico, I suffered a lot of pain in my dressing room. Thirty minutes ahead of the bout, I started experiencing a severe stomach ache. I couldn’t stand up and I was in deep pain. I kept on weeping and the people around me did not understand.

 A voice directed me to pray and seek God’s intervention, so I ordered my coach and everyone around me to leave the room. I prayed for about ten minutes and suddenly the severity of the pain went down. I went into the bout concerned with the situation, but one round into it,  I forgot about pain because I wasn’t experiencing it anymore.

“However in the 6th round of that bout, I suffered some cut at the back of my head with blood oozing out. The referee came around to check if I was ok but I managed to keep it away from him and forged on with the fight. I won that bout on points and I believe strongly that it was God who helped me win.

“Every sportsperson will tell you that there is spirituality in the profession. If you want to do regular things without spiritual backing, the profession will kill you. If you solely rely on your strength, the profession will kill you. That is why I always tell people to seek God and rely on Him. There is nothing too hard for the Lord so if you rely on Him, He will surely answer your prayers and lift you to where you want to be”, he said.

At the peak of his prowess, Azumah Nelson, who is widely regarded as Africa’s greatest boxer, dominated the featherweight and super-featherweight divisions and earned the title of world champion three different times.

He is an inductee of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.