JEFF Fenech has never been one to mince his words.
The former three-time world champion, who now operates as a successful trainer, is regarded by most as the best fighter ever produced on these shores, and is seen as an obvious source of knowledge.
The 55-year-old Hall of Famer sat down with leading boxing broadcaster Ben Damon to recap the major talking points from Michael Zerafa’s upset win over Jeff Horn at Bendigo Stadium.
With the dust still settling on a controversial night for many parties involved, Fenech was quick to take aim at referee Ferlin Marsh for the quality of his officiating.
“I think it was terrible for the sport of boxing, absolutely disgusting,” Fenech told The Main Event Boxing Podcast.
“The referee didn’t even look at Jeff when he was falling down. He was more concerned with sending Michael Zerafa to the neutral corner, which is fine, [but] your first and upmost job is to protect the safety of the boxer.
“So as that guy was falling quite hard, he got hit hard. He didn’t even look at him, didn’t even see the way his head hit that canvas and kind of twisted on the knee.
“Then when he got up, by the time he looked at him, of course being Jeff Horn, a super determined [and] tough guy. He shouldn’t of even been allowed to get up. If that was me, I would’ve been in the ring helping him up, or laying him down to put him in the right position.
“I don’t want to jump on, but I’ve got to. If he’s still on the canvas, the fight’s over, it’s automatic. So if the referee didn’t see it and the authority didn’t see it, what are we watching?
“What are we doing here? What kind of people have we got running our sport?”
In the days following the middleweight regional title fight, Fenech openly criticised the performance of Horn’s long-time trainer Glenn Rushton, who acted late when attempting to withdraw his charge.
When quizzed for his assessment on the stoppage, Fenech revealed a frank and honest phone conversation with Rushton in the days after the upset.
“Glenn spoke to me the other day and I really so much appreciated him having the audacity to call me,” he added.
“I told him straight that there was nothing he could say to me that would make me even one percent agree that the fight shouldn’t of been stopped. If you love that kid, you should’ve stopped it.
“Know that he’s got a family and that he’s got a life after boxing. I don’t know if Glenn’s ever been punched in the head but he allowed this person who he said he loves like his child to be punched in the head too many times.”
Fenech served a brutal opinion on the corner work of Rushton, analysing not only his ability to read a fight, but also his unique and non-traditional training methods.
“They’re seeing this guy who does padwork like nobody else in the world,” he continued.
“I can’t even describe what they say when they see him train. I don’t know, I’m just brutally honest, it’s a joke. What he’s doing on the pads couldn’t happen in a fight in a million years.
“When you do padwork you’ve got to replicate a fighter. A fighter’s head is not twelve feet wide.”
“Whatever Jeff Horn has done, it’s Jeff Horn that’s winning these fights. It’s this special unique person who has this amazing mental capacity that just believes he’s done everything right to win the fight.”
Although Horn (19-2-1, 13 KOs) is yet to make a formal decision relating to his immediate future, Fenech believes there is plenty of fight left in the former WBO welterweight titleholder.
But like any athlete that has experienced success at the highest level, Fenech has warned Horn any potential decision to fight on needs to be driven by more than financial gain.
“Jeff Horn just needs a rest,” he concluded.
“You’ve been concussed, he needs a rest. Have time with your beautiful family, in a couple of months get back out there, get on the road. If he feels like he has that desire and the love of the sport, you’ve got to love this sport to be good at this sport.
“I honestly believe that it’s going to be hard for him to turn his back on, especially when you’ve earned millions of dollars in his last couple of fights. He still has the capacity to do that, he can earn big money.
“It’s going to be hard, but he’s got a big decision to make. He has to make a decision that’s ultimately gonna say whether he’s going to be successful again.”
Personal opinions can often be influenced by friendships and associations to mutual parties.
But if Horn is to continue pursuing a career in the punch-for-pay business, Fenech offered a stern warning about his potential choice of trainer to accompany him on fight night.
“I thought he (Horn) needed a new trainer from the day he started,” he declared.
“There’s no disrespect to you (Rushton) as a person. As a human, I’ve found that you’re a lovely man. But as a boxing trainer, brother, you’re in the wrong job. You’re the same as those officials and stuff, you’re in the wrong job.
“That’s not boxing training what he does. He might be good mentally, but that’s the worst boxing training I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Due to the rematch clause in the initial bout agreements, Horn can exercise an option to face Zerafa (27-3, 16 KOs) in his next fight.
While Fenech wouldn’t go as far as predicting a result, the Sydney-based trainer gave a detailed evaluation of the fight should it happen for a second time.
“Michael’s very very nervous, he’s that kind of fighter,” he said.
“He’s one of those edgy fighters, he didn’t really find himself. I watched him spar against Daniel Lewis and he totally dominated him. It was amazing, I said that if he could take that form into the ring against whichever Jeff Horn that turned up, he was a chance of beating him.
“I never thought he could do that. In those first few rounds, that wasn’t the guy that I seen spar Daniel Lewis. But when he got his confidence, that was the guy.
“Zerafa is a confidence guy, I think he thinks that he’s got Jeff Horn’s number, so it’ll be very difficult for Jeff Horn. Especially once you’ve been hit by somebody, been hurt, and the other guy knows he can hurt you. It’s a difficult task for Jeff.
“Jeff’s not a middleweight, his body proved it on the night.”
Photo: Betelgeuse Films