In his career, Johnny Nelson earned something of a reputation for meeting weight for a division. Weeks earlier, he lost in a bid to reclaim the WBF Heavyweight title against Adilson Rodrigues. A month later he was back in the ring to kick off January 1996 in the cruiserweight division—and his dominance of it.
Back Among Cruiserweights
While he considered himself a bad amateur boxer who shouldn’t have gotten far as a pro, Johnny Nelson was extremely adaptable. Now almost ten years in the sport, he would show how adaptable he was. First, he took to climbing his way back up through the titles.
For two years, he went through opponent after opponent. After crushing Tony Booth via second-round KO, he won the vacant British Cruiserweight title in seven rounds against Dennis Andries at the end of the year. Traveling to France, Patrice Aouissi was the victim of a third knockout in February 1997. This match saw him take the vacant European Cruiserweight title.
Johnny Nelson was in top form and showing that he was hungry for another world title. His target would be a boxing legend known to take fights at a moment’s notice and deliver a hard-fought bout each time. “The Entertainer’s” sights were on Carl Thompson.
Road to the World Title
Following his defense of the European Cruiserweight title, Nelson was eventually pitted against Thompson for the WBO Cruiserweight title. Thompson was coming off a ton of momentum having defeated a retiring Chris Eubank in back-to-back bouts in 1998.
He was 23-5 heading into the bout to Nelson’s 31-12-1. Both were coming in hot with several wins prior to the match, so the streak had to end for one of them in March 1999.
In a match that still viewed as controversial, Nelson would defeat the reigning champion. The culprit? The referee who ended the match after five rounds of action. While Thompson would go to win the title Nelson just vacated and the IBO Cruiserweight title twice, the match left something to be desired from diehard boxing fans.
The Dominant Champion
Nelson didn’t squander his momentum. For the next six years, he bulldozed through every challenge thrown at him. Each of his matches until his retirement were title defenses. Several of the matches went the full 12 rounds while others he managed to cleanly knockout his opponent.
One of the significant bouts was an eight-round knockout on Ezra Sellers in June 2002. A year prior, Seller defeated Carl Thompson for the IBO Cruiserweight title. He came into the match defending the belt which Nelson declined.
Nelson was never beaten as champion but he did experience a blemish of sorts in a draw towards the end of his career. The split decision outcome occurred following his tenth defense of the World Cruiserweight title. He retired with the belt as a result of mounting injuries from his career. His fight match was the thirteenth defense of the World Cruiserweight title, defeating Vincenzo Cantatore by split decision in November 2005.
Nelson’s next match was to be a title defense against Enzo Maccarinelli in March. His final record was 45-12-2 with 29 knockouts.
Now retired from the sweet science, Johnny Nelson works is a boxing analyst for Sky TV and spends a great deal of his time doing charity. He focuses his efforts on helping inmates for a time beyond the bars and walls of the prison system. Nelson has also written a book about his experiences in boxing and life called Hard Road to Glory.
-Final WBO Defense: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGWgLTxUJeM