If a torn Achilles tendon and a worldwide pandemic kept Abraham Nova from getting to where he wanted to be in 2020-21, the 27-year-old isn’t worried, because 22 is his lucky number.
“I played football and baseball and I always had the number 22 because of Emmitt Smith with the Cowboys,” said Nova. “I loved it, and from there on, 22 has been my go-to. If you see my boxing trunks, I rock the number 22 in all my fights. I want to bring numbers into the boxing game. All these other athletes are recognized by their numbers, and I want to be recognized by my number 22.”
Needless to say, you can count Nova among those who couldn’t wait to see the calendar change on January 1, and to celebrate 2022, he’s going to get into a fistfight this Saturday night against William Encarnacion, a late replacement for the injured Jose Enrique Vivas.
“I was a bit disappointed because I was getting ready for Vivas,” Nova said. “I had a good gameplan on how to beat this kid and I was gonna look real good, but it doesn't matter. I got somebody else and I'm still focused and the gameplan still stands - winning.”
At 20-0 with 14 knockouts, Nova knows nothing but winning thus far, and he expects that trend to continue against Encarnacion, who will be making his first business trip outside of his native Dominican Republic to face Nova. On paper, it’s a nice revival of the Puerto Rico versus DR rivalry, but since Nova’s parents are Dominican, it’s a rivalry of a different sort.
“It's still a rivalry because he's trying to take my spot and he's a fighter that's trying to win and I'm a fighter trying to win, so that's the rivalry that I see,” said Nova, who is coming off an eight-round win over Richard Pumicpic last August. It was his first bout since a June 2020 victory over Avery Sparrow, and that injury-induced layoff, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, forced Nova to put the brakes on a rise that had him in the WBO’s Top Five at 130 pounds.
“This pandemic has not just been changing boxing, it's changing the world, so it teaches you how to have patience,” he said. “We've got a lot of restrictions, so this whole pandemic has taught us as human beings to be grateful and to appreciate things in life because you can take it for granted.”
Nova never took boxing for granted, but the injury to his Achilles did remind him that all it takes is one split second for it to all go away. So when he’s in the ring, he’s not looking to stick around to grind out a decision or dance for ten rounds. It’s a fight, and he’s intent on ending it as soon as possible.
“I want to get him out of there,” Nova said. “My nerves will make me fight that way, but also in my preparation there's a lot of pain, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of stuff I went through that gives me that energy and that drive to finish the fight. A lot of times, I think this guy is in the way of my goals and my dreams coming true and everything I want to accomplish. After the fight, we're cool, but in there, I want to get you out of there by any means necessary. And like they say, you don't get paid for overtime, so I'm trying to hurt you every minute that I can because I went through a lot of suffering and a lot of pain through the training camp to prepare for the fight.”
So the nerves are necessary?
“If I'm not nervous, I don't like it,” he laughs. “I feel like when you're nervous, you respect the game more, you respect the fighter, you respect everything that's happening. But when you're not nervous, you go in there too confident and you can slip up. That's how people get caught. So I need to be nervous before a fight, I need to be anxious, I need to respect them. And once I respect the fighter, you will get the best Abraham.”
On Saturday, Nova expects to bring the best version of himself to Verona, New York, just an hour and 20 minutes from his home in Albany. Weather permitting, he’ll have a nice crowd there for the ESPN+ co-main event to Joe Smith’s light heavyweight title defense against Steve Geffrard, and it’s the kind of showcase that could put him on the map in a big way to kick off what could be the biggest year of his career.
“It's a statement-making fight, and also, he's a 2012 Olympian, so he has some skills, and I know he can fight,” said Nova. “If I go in there and get a good victory in good fashion and get the knockout, it will make a statement to the featherweight division, letting everybody know that I'm here and I'm not here to be played with.”
Sounds like someone counting on that whole “22” thing to deliver.
“There are a lot of reasons I can say that,” Nova laughs. “I'm high in the rankings, 22 is my favorite number, so everything is falling perfect. I'm fighting at the beginning of the year close to my hometown, so everything is falling in place, and I really feel that this year I will become a world champion and I will make a big statement in 2022.”
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