Aussie boxing legend Jeff Fenech is now a four-time world champion after the World Boxing Council overturned his 1991 draw against Ghana’s Azumah Nelson.
In February the WBC began the review process in the controversial decision, which was deemed a split draw.
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The judges had it 115-113 to Fenech, 112-116 to Nelson and 114-114-all after a brutal 12 rounds of super featherweight boxing. But Fenech and many fans long believed the Aussie had won the fight, and as many as nine rounds.
Even the fans in the stadium booed the result.
“It was total bullcrap – I’ve been robbed,” Fenech said at the time.
“The whole world knows I won.”
On Tuesday night, a panel of judges reviewed the fight and awarded Fenech the title, his fourth belt and elevating him to rare air among fighters who have won world titles across four weight divisions.
“All the ring officials from all over the world score the bout in favour of Jeff Fenech,” WBC President Mauricio Sulaimán said.
“The WBC board of governors approve the motion to crown Jeff Fenech to become a four-time world champion. It is our great pleasure to crown and award the WBC Feather and Super Featherweight Championship to Jeff, the Thunder from Down Under, Fenech.”
Fenech was on hand to accept the belt and was clearly pleased by the revision.
But boxing fans have questioned whether this will set a new precedent to review any other fights that are deemed controversial.
Fans pointed to the 1988 WBC World lightweight title fight between Jose Luis Ramirez and Pernell Whitaker.
Ramirez won the split decision from the judges but the general consensus was that Whitaker was robbed.
It was the only blemish on Whitaker’s record until his final few fights and he did bounce back to win the title the following year.
What about Jeff Horn’s fight against Manny Pacquiao, which saw US pundits blast the judges after a unanimous decision for the Aussie? Others asked for another look at Canelo Alvarez and Gennedy Golovkin’s first fight, which was deemed a draw when fans were quick to crown GGG the winner.
Boxing reporter for KOTV Boxing Ciaran Gibbons tweeted: “The WBC are going to be handing out a lot of ‘retrospective titles’ if this is the criteria.”
Fellow boxing reporter Matthew Aguilar posted: “I have retroactively awarded the WBC title of ‘Worst Sanctioning Body in the History of Mankind’. Authentic handcrafted belt forthcoming.”
Boxing writer Mark Butcher commented: “Hardly the worst decision in a WBC title fight, leaves a sour taste. Whitaker vs Ramirez I as bad as it gets.”
Former world ranked light heavyweight boxer “Iceman” John Scully wrote: “YOU CANT CHANGE THE DECISION”.
Wests Tigers podcast Westslife host Rob Bechara lampooned the decision: “Can we retroactively award the Balmain Tigers the 1989 grand final please?”
Speaking on RSN’s The Breakfast Club on Wednesday morning, Fenech said he felt the reason it had been overturned was the weight of those slamming the decision.
“Every time I hear someone talking about it on Instagram or Facebook, the comments are overwhelmingly that Jeff Fenech won the fight,” he said.
“For them to do that, it takes a lot of courage. For the first time ever and if it happens again … With the technology we’ve got today, it’s quite simple to see who wins the fight and if the judges get it wrong, then it should be reversed and the winner should win.
“It ruins people’s lives and careers. I was never the same after that draw either.”
While the boxing world grapples with the decision to overturn the result 31 years later,
Fenech is just happy the wrong has been righted.
“It’s crazy, brother. It would’ve meant more to me back when I really won the fight. But for them, the WBC, to do this is so special,” Fenech told News Corp.
“Far out, it means so much to me.
“I’ve got 20 or 30 Aussies who have flown over with me. It’s an incredibly special night.”
Fenech also told The Age he feels the result “makes boxing a better sport.”
“We have technology and if there’s a fight where I won 10 rounds out of 12 – then I won the fight.”
Speaking on 4BC Breakfast on Wednesday, Wide World of Sports host and commentator Peter Psaltis said: “Everybody knew that was a rort. Actually, it couldn’t have been a rort, it had to be incompetence or a combination of the two.
“It affected Jeff Fenech for a long time. He wasn’t the same after that, he lost that edge he had in the ring.”