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Abraham Nova warns featherweight division: “I’m not here to play”

Undefeated featherweight Abraham Nova returns as chief support on Saturday’s Top Rank slate.

Joshua Franco v Andrew Moloney Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images

Abraham Nova is no stranger to overcoming setbacks. A torn Achilles tendon — and a pandemic — wasn’t able to derail the career of the 27-year-old fighting out of Albany, New York.

Nova (20-0, 14 KO) was sidelined for 14 months before enjoying a tough, winning return to the ring last August against Richard Pumicpic, but now, as we roll into 2022, the featherweight is ready to make up for lost time.

We glide through the pleasantries and mundane tick-box questioning of how his camp went. Nova plays ball, and volleys back the stock answers of “camp went great” and “everything went to plan,” but the infectious energy of the unbeaten fighter implored me to move the conversation on.

“Nothing has changed in my preparation since my Achilles injury,” he admitted to my surprise. “We took our time with the healing process to make sure that everything was right, but I am back doing runs, sprints, agility work, jump rope, everything.

“I’m pretty much back to normal in the ring. We’ve been working on my timing, strength and speed in the gym but everything has turned out good.”

Nova’s camp in Boston ran through the holiday season, a sacrifice he is more than willing to make as he looks to make the next step in his career.

“It’s always tough missing Christmas with the family, but as fighters we have to make these choices. At the end of the day it’s going to pay off; if anything it makes me even more determined to get the victory on Saturday.”

William Encarnacion (19-1, 15 KO) is the man tasked with handing Nova the first defeat of his professional career. A late replacement for the injured Jose Enrique Vivas, Encarnacion is a 2012 Olympian fighting outside of the Dominican Republic for the first time in his career.

“He’s got great pedigree and a solid skillset,” Nova explains, adding a little gloss on the inexperienced resume of “El Gago”. “You can’t buy the experience he has had in the amateurs. No doubt he will be coming to fight.

“It’s never ideal when your opponent changes last minute like this. I can’t lie, it’s bothered me a little – but it hasn’t disrupted our game plan. Sure, we planned for a specific style in Vivas, but I’ve had over 200 amateur fights in my career where I had to suss out different style after different style and this is no different. I am able to adjust.”

Turning Stone in Verona hosts Saturday night’s contest — headlined by Joe Smith Jr vs Steve Geffrard — and Nova is feeling the pressure now that more eyes and more attention will be placed on the chief support.

“I’m the local star this Saturday,” he explains without an ounce of arrogance. “I’m close to my home town, about an hour away, and there will be a lot of fans coming to see me. The pressure is on me to perform, but that’s what I’ll do.

“A win will put me right in the mix with the best featherweights and in the conversation for a world title fight. I’m coming to make a statement on Saturday night: I’m not here to be played with.”

Nova’s fan-friendly style is synonymous with his personality: Entertaining, confident and full of energy. He likes that, but also likes to hurt his opponents.

“I fight to win. If fans find entertainment in my style then that is great, but the most important thing is for me to keep getting Ws.”

We talk about a shared love for Joe Calzaghe — not a fighter you would immediately associate with Nova, but one he admits to idolizing as a youngster — and a desire to add parts of Canelo and Erislandy Lara’s style to his own arsenal.

The thing that Calzaghe and Nova have most in common at this moment is perfect records, and “El Super Nova” is adamant that will continue this weekend.

Inside the ring, he lives by the mantra: It’s not over ‘til it’s Nova.

“It means that it’s not over until I say it is,” he concludes. “I get the last say on my fights and on my career. Everyone said my career was over when I tore my Achilles, but look at me now.

“It’s the same in the ring. Even if I get hurt, there’s no chance I’ll be kept down.

“See, it’s never over ‘til it’s Nova. And I’ll have the last say in the featherweight division.”

Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the BWAA. Follow or contact him on Twitter @lewroyscribbles

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