|Nelson Confident of Doing a Number on Fenech
Interview by Anthony Cocks, Site Editor (June 23, 2008) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Werner Kalin)
It’s the fight that no-one thought would ever happen, but in the next 24 hours two members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame will match skills and wills in an historic third fight that is taking place against all odds.
On Tuesday night at Melbourne’s Vodafone Arena Jeff Fenech and Azumah Nelson will attempt to wind back the clock when they step into the ring for the third time.
With a combined age of 93 and 78 professional boxing bouts between them, this improbable matchup would have been scoffed at just a few mere months ago.
Nelson himself doubted the authenticity of the bout when he was contacted by a representative of Team Fenech earlier in the year.
“One day a couple of months ago I was on my farm with my family and with my workers, talking to them when the call came,” Nelson explained to DoghouseBoxing on Friday. “And I said no, it can’t be possible, let me talk to Jeff myself. So Jeff called me and he said ‘Champ, I told you the rematch will have to come’. I said ‘Jeff, I don’t know how I can do it’ but Jeff said ‘no, please’, so I said okay. Let me go home for a couple of days and start training and see if I can shed some weight. So I started shedding the weight off, shedding the weight off, and the press came to Ghana asking if I’m going to fight Jeff Fenech for the third time. The press people came in asking if it’s true and I said ‘yes’.”
While not sporting the ripped physique that Fenech has been proudly showing off to the Australian press, Nelson is clearly fit. In the brand new Fight Fit gym in South Melbourne on Friday, Nelson went through his paces. Ten rounds on the mitts at a measured pace, followed by a few more on the heavy bag before finishing of with a couple on the speedball. For a guy knocking on the door of a half century, he is in deceptively good nick.
However not everyone is happy about the matchup. Somewhat predictably the Australian Medical Association broke out the bugle this week and trumpeted their concerns, back by a chorus of naysayers and political hacks who have their own agendas to push. Never mind that the Professional Boxing and Combat Sports Board of Victoria the relevant and accountable commission in this state approved the matchup, nor that respected physician Dr Peter Lewis clear both boxers to fight.
The history between the two men has been well documented. After their first fight in Las Vegas in 1991 ended in a controversial draw, Nelson made a point of travelling to Australia to rematch Fenech in front of 40,000 parochial fans at Princes Park in Melbourne the following year. The result was an 8th round TKO loss for Fenech in a fight than many pundits believe all but finished his career.
“When I fought him the first fight he said he won,” said Nelson. “But I’m not the judges, I’m not the referee. You see yourself punching, throwing a lot of punches, but it doesn’t mean you won the fight. But I’m a good defender so when you throw more punches I block a lot of punches with my hands. People outside see you throwing punches, you say you won the fight, the judges say no it’s a draw, the record says it’s a draw. But I said no, I’ll give you a rematch and I’ll give you a rematch nowhere but here in your country of Australia.
“The problem is the first fight I was sick in malaria,” continued Nelson. “Nobody can fight if you have malaria like I did, so nobody believed this is what happened. When I go back home my President, when he heard I was going to fight Jeff Fenech in Australia, he was worried. He said ‘No Champ, why?’ I told the President the first time I was sick and this time I was so fit, there was no way Fenech would finish the rounds with me. I told him I would knock him out. He said okay, if I say so. So I came and knocked him out.
“Since then Fenech has always talked about the rematch again. He thinks he has lost something, he missed something, he did something wrong. But I said ‘no, no, no, you did nothing wrong, I’m the Professor and only the Professor can beat you’.”
Getting back into something approaching fighting shape has been a chore for both men, particularly Nelson who is not only five years older than Fenech, but also turned pro half a decade before the Marrickville Mauler enter the pay-for-punch ranks.
“It’s not easy,” admitted Nelson. “It’s difficult because the body is used to being relaxed. The flesh is a different place and the bone is a different place, so when you are sparring they hit you and you feel the pain is too hard, too much. But gradually the bones, flesh and water come together; you have to grab them you have to squeeze them to be firm. It takes a long time to come back, but we’ve put it together. And you will see that when I whack.”
For his part Fenech has claimed he will start the fight as a counter puncher and pick up the pressure as the rounds progress. Nelson however is having none of it.
“Jeff don’t know how to go backwards,” laughed Nelson. “He’s always coming always coming, always coming. You can’t push Jeff back, he always pushes you back. He’ll push me into the ropes. People say ‘why do you like to staying in the corner?’ but I’m not the one who want to stay in the corner. Jeff pushes you to the corner and he’s too strong, you can’t push him back.”
The secret to victory, according to Nelson, is unleashing his vaunted power.
“I have big punches, I know I can hit hard,” he said. “When you are with me in the corner you might hit me with six punches but I’ll hit you with one, I’ll hit you with two and I’ll slow you down. That will make the difference. This fight is going to be a very tough fight, going to the end. In the last couple of rounds I’ll knock him out.”
The well word axiom that the last thing a boxer loses is his punch is something that Nelson steadfastly believes in.
“I did it before and I should do it again,” he said. “Jeff is very strong but you know the first fight and the second fight we fought changed him. The punches that I hit him with changed him from the first fight to the second fight. That’s why he fought two fighters and got knocked out. Calvin Grove doesn’t have the punch to knock anyone out, and he knocked Fenech out.”
The confidence is certainly there and both boxers are talking a good fight, but how much either man has left in the tank remains to be seen. Regardless of the result, this surely must be ‘The Final Round’ for both ring legends.
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