JEFF FENECH – I LOVE YOU’SE ALL
The Marrickville Mauler is back for one more round.
A street thug made good, he was an Aussie battler who’s catch cry “I Love You’se all.” is now part of our culture, he captured three world titles, he’s in the International Boxing Hall of Fame and when his bid for a fourth world title against Azumah Nelson went wrong, the whole of Australia was behind him. Now, at 44 Jeff Fenech is having one more blue against the 49 year old Nelson.
I talked to Jeff (via the phone) as he prepared himself for the fight asking him first why he was doing it.
I don’t know, I think I got rocks in my head. It just came about. Someone challenged me to fight in Thailand, first few days I said no no no then its all of a sudden, maybe and then a yes. Then he (Samart Payakarun) pulls out and we had to find someone else and old Azumah Nelson pops up. It goes from Payakarun which was something that was going to be relatively easy to something (Nelson) that’s going to be quite difficult. It’s gonna be a hard night.
Your hands always gave you trouble, how are they now?
Still sore, nothing’s changed but then everywhere is sore at the moment.
You had a pretty rough time with the law as a kid. How did you end up in a boxing gym with Johnny Lewis?
It was just by sheer coincidence, I didn’t go there to box. It was a youth club and I just went to see a friend. He (Johnny) was one of those men who was like a magnet and I was instantly… I don’t know, I instantly took a liking to him. And to be honest with you, it was like he was my dad. We’re very close still and it’s good to be back together.
Well, as an amateur you apparently only ever lost when Johnny wasn’t there.
Yeah, I know, pretty strange huh? It’s a pretty unique relationship.
Its always been portrayed as a good relationship too but there were times when he had to get tough with you weren’t there?
Yeah, many times. If I was a bighead or anything, he’d tell me to pull my head in or see the door you walked in son, walk back out again.
When you look back over your career now what were your toughest fights?
I fought the greatest fighters out there. Daniel Zaragoza, he’s in the Boxing Hall of Fame, Carlos Zarate, he’s in the Hall of Fame, Azumah Nelson, he’s in the Hall of Fame. (Marcos) Villasana, (Mario) Martinez, all these great fighters. Victor Callejas you know, he was a great fighter, a very difficult fight. I fought the Olympic Gold Medallist (Steve McCrory) and knocked him out. Jerome Coffee he was 26 and 0 when I fought him so I fought some great fighters and I was able to overcome them all. So I’m hoping I can overcome one last beat up at 44. (laughs)
What about fighting the great Carlos Zarate? Everyone said he was at the end of his career but he still had sixty six victories up his sleeve.
You know they say he was old but he was thirty odd and now I’m fighting again at forty four… he wasn’t really too old at all. (laughs)
In 1990 you were supposed to fight Juan La Porte for the WBC Super Featherweight title but you had to pull out with glandular fever. Is that a fight you regret not getting?
It’s funny I was just thinking about that a couple of days ago. I was on a plane with Azumah sitting on the other side and I thought about the La Porte fight. You know if that had happened, I wouldn’t have even had to think about anything else. That would have been my fourth title, but like you said I got sick. These things happen though you can’t change them.
Around the same time there seemed to be a bit of a feud between you and fellow Aussie world champ Jeff Harding. Was that anything to do with you both having the same trainer? Was there some jealousy perhaps?
No no no, Jeff’s not like that. (laughs) Jeff, he’s pretty well balanced, he’s got a chip on both shoulders. (laughs)
There seems to be a couple of ex boxers you don’t see eye to eye with. Barry Michaels is another one.
Mate, the only way he can get in the paper is by mentioning me. For years he’s said ‘I wanted to fight him for twenty years.’ But you know four or five years ago when he was talking about twenty years back I was at the Olympic Games! He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
The Man, Anthony Mundine has been pretty vocal too. He’s even challenged you to a fight at middleweight.
What do you expect from an idiot’s mouth? Stupid things! He’s just jealous. As a league player he wanted to knock Brad Fittler and Laurie Daley but he could never do it, he wasn’t good enough and it’s the same in the fight game. He’s a talented kid no doubt about it. He’s done a great job but he’ll never be in the Hall of Fame, he’ll never fight fighters who can fight. He won’t step up. That’s the thing with me and Azumah Nelson. We both respect each other. Respect goes a long way in the world.
You were always accompanied in the ring by your mate Con Spyropolous who was brain damaged at birth. It’s not often touched on but that friendship certainly helped bring a much wider understanding of the mentally disabled to the public didn’t it? It wasn’t a gimmick, it was a genuine friendship.
You’re a hundred percent right. Con was certainly teased and stuff you know when he was a kid and when I was young I teased him too but now to be able to help him, trust me, it makes you feel much, much better. He’s still a huge part of my life and I see him everyday when I’m in Sydney.
And how is he these days?
He’s great. He’ll be at the press conference (in Sydney), he’ll be at the fight. Like I said, he’s still a huge part of my life and will be until one of us is no longer here.
JEFF FENECH Vs AZUMAH NELSON – THE FINAL ROUND III
JUNE 26TH 2008 VODAFONE ARENA MELBOURNE VICTORIA
Screening on Main Event and Fox pubs and clubs