It is probably not proper or simply, however the reality stays that on the subject of drawing consideration and promoting tickets, the heavyweights are at all times tops in boxing. You could possibly have the second coming of Sugar Ray Robinson in motion, but when the stadium throughout city has a dynamic heavyweight knockout artist on the invoice, Sugar Man might be performing for a lot of rows of empty seats. Sorry, however the large guys flip heads and make the turnstiles sing. Easy reality of the boxing enterprise. How else does one clarify what occurred in Las Vegas on the night time of June 28, 1991?
Sure, Mike Tyson vs Donovan “Razor” Ruddock was a compelling duel of giant heavyweight punchers, to not point out an intriguing rematch after their first assembly had been halted prematurely by referee Richard Steele 4 months earlier. However the little acknowledged reality was that the night time’s undercard characteristic was arguably, with not a hint of hyperbole, probably the greatest match-ups in latest boxing historical past, for any weight class.
Over the earlier 9 years, Azumah Nelson had received two world titles and established himself as a legit Corridor of Famer, whereas Australia’s Jeff Fenech was an undefeated three-time world champ, gunning now for a fourth belt. That first Nelson vs Fenech battle, a match between two world champions with a lot on the road by way of historical past and achievement, ought to have been a primary occasion unto itself. As a substitute, the media and the general public have been targeted on the heavyweight spectacle and Tyson’s vulgar mockery of his formidable Canadian opponent.
However maybe it was simply as properly that sports activities followers and the mainstream press have been lower than enthralled by the Tyson-Ruddock undercard, as a result of extra consideration to it could have meant but extra unhealthy publicity for boxing. One other disagreeable reality in regards to the struggle sport is it virtually by no means misses an opportunity to smash a very good factor and so it was with Nelson vs Fenech, half one. We’ve seen it many instances earlier than and since: an in any other case entertaining and action-packed donnybrook marred by inept officiating.
The tip consequence was nothing lower than heartbreaking for Fenech. A serious movie star in Australia, he had the prospect to turn into simply the fourth man in boxing historical past to win world titles in 4 weight divisions, the primary to do it undefeated, an achievement setting him up completely to turn into a worldwide sports activities celebrity. As a substitute, after twelve fast-paced and hard-fought rounds of which Fenech clearly received no less than seven, the judges scored the competition a draw. The controversial end eclipsed each an amazing struggle and an inspiring efficiency from Fenech, after which, as Tyson and Ruddock locked horns, everybody however the die-hards put Nelson vs Fenech out of their minds.
Everybody besides Fenech, after all. In line with “The Marrickville Mauler” himself, the end result modified him and never for the higher. Outraged by the questionable determination, he returned to Australia and was again within the ring simply three months later, however one thing was gone for good.
“I can’t put my finger on it and let you know precisely what it finished to me, however I can let you know I used to be by no means the identical fighter,” he instructed Daniel Attias in 2015. “After the [first Nelson] struggle I got here again residence, clearly heartbroken and disillusioned [and] I used to be by no means the identical. I used to be by no means the identical fighter and we by no means actually seen [again] the man that fought Azumah Nelson in Vegas.”
However maybe the Nelson vs Fenech rematch must be much less in regards to the abrupt decline of probably the greatest boxers to ever come out of Australia, and extra in regards to the greatness of Azumah Nelson. For if Fenech insists that he was one thing lower than his greatest within the return, Nelson in truth claimed to have been recovering from malaria previous to the primary tilt. It’s troublesome to make certain if that accounts for the distinction in performances, however what’s plain is that once they met the second time, it was Nelson who appeared each inch an all-time nice.
Some forty thousand proud Australians endured a rainstorm to fill the Princes Park in Melbourne, all there to see a unsuitable righted, however it was to not be. From the opening bell it was clear this was a distinct model of the Azumah Nelson who had been so passive the earlier June. Nelson’s moniker was “The Professor” and the person from Ghana was clearly intent on educating the youthful Fenech a painful lesson, as from the outset he held his floor and let fly with highly effective blows from both hand. A flush proper to the jaw induced the challenger’s legs to break down within the opening spherical and proper then and there the gang’s hopes for a continuation of the primary match have been dashed.
In Las Vegas Fenech had attacked virtually with impunity, pinning Azumah to the ropes and dictating the phrases and within the course of robbing the champion of punching room. He had fought with such confidence and ferocity that Nelson’s benefits in expertise, energy and accuracy have been largely nullified, however now, in entrance of an enormous crowd of his fellow Australians, Fenech appeared uncomfortable and hesitant. In spherical two he discovered himself off stability after taking a proper hand and misplaced his footing. It appeared a slip, however the referee gave him the rely. Within the third Fenech pinned the person from Ghana in his personal nook however did not land any vital blows, and within the fourth, as if anything may go unsuitable, he sustained a reduce on his proper eye.
Rounds 5 and 6 noticed loads of livid toe-to-toe warfare with each touchdown highly effective pictures. It had turn into a contest of wills with the champion working to keep away from the ropes whereas Fenech regularly pressed ahead. Close to the top of the sixth the challenger received what he wished as he pressured Nelson into his personal nook, however the hunted grew to become the hunter when the champion unleashed a counter barrage of heavy blows that had Fenech reeling and grateful to listen to the bell.
Surprisingly then, within the seventh “The Thunder From Down Underneath” had his greatest spherical but as he constantly beat Azumah to the punch, and whereas Nelson’s benefit in sheer energy had largely outlined the proceedings, the struggle was nonetheless up for grabs. Till, abruptly, it was not. Spherical eight noticed a return to vicious, cellphone sales space warfare, the challenger once more forcing Nelson to his personal nook and holding him there, but when it appeared Fenech had the higher hand, then appearances have been deceiving. A thudding left hook discovered the candy spot on the Australian’s chin and froze him; one other left and two rights despatched him crashing to the ground.
Fenech then made the error of rising too quick from the knockdown and the hometown hero was nonetheless dazed and confused as Nelson moved in for the end. Flush left hooks, then an uppercut and a ending proper hand had the Australian’s head snapping round like a velocity bag earlier than the referee stepped in to rescue him. The shocked crowd of Fenech followers appeared on in silence as a small contingent of Ghanaians gleefully danced and waved aloft their crimson, inexperienced and yellow flags.
Fenech had nothing to be ashamed of; it had been a violent slugfest all the best way and he had battled bravely, however his mistake was in making ready for a similar Nelson who had been, comparatively, so weak and defensive again in June. This time a Nelson primed for fight had answered the bell. And “The Professor,” who already held large wins over Wilfredo Gomez, Mario Martinez and Juan LaPorte, confirmed once more a most vital and lasting lesson, particularly that Azumah Nelson was a really nice champion, a Corridor of Famer, and, arguably, the perfect of all African boxers. — Michael Carbert