27.05.08 – by G.I. Lewis: Australia’s most loved boxer is aiming for a measure of redemption on June 24, when Jeff Fenech fights Azumah Nelson for the third time. The pair meet again in Melbourne, where sixteen years ago Nelson ended Fenech’s dream of world titles in four weight divisions..
They first fought in June 1991 in the Las Vegas desert. Most observers had Fenech a clear winner but the judges handed him a draw. He remains philosophical about the result that would have taken him to an echelon of fighters populated then only by Sugar Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns.
“It was pretty hurtful, I honestly don’t think I was ever the same fighter after that,” he said. “Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I’d got the decision over Azumah, I wouldn’t have had to fight him again. But life doesn’t always pan out the way you want it to.”
Fenech was stopped in eight rounds of a rematch in March 1992, and despite boxing on until 1996 he never again regained his championship form. The Marrickville Mauler was inducted into the International boxing hall of fame as soon as he was eligible. He began training this year to get fit, and then the opportunity arose to fight old opponent Samart Payakaroon in Thailand.
“He pulled out, and then a friend emailed Azumah and he said he was interested,” he said.
Fenech is happy to support charities, and he insists that there will be no more comebacks.
“Not for twenty million dollars. This is it for me. It’s a win-win, because I get fit, lose weight and do something for charity,” he said. “I must have rocks in my head, I wake up in the morning a little tired, with sore ribs, sore hands, but I’m boxing no different than fifteen years ago. My hand speed is still there.”
After the match, Fenech insists he’ll walk away from boxing to spend more time with family.
“I don’t watch the fights anymore. Not Mundine, Danny Green, Vic Darchinyan, live or on television. I’ve had enough of boxing. I’ve put my family through alot. My wife, my children, my mother. I want to spend more time with them, making sure my son is on the right path in life. I can get on with being happy after this.”