KNOWN as Australia’s greatest ever pugilist, Jeff Fenech has an entirely different fight on his hands.
The Hall of Famer is in Bangkok, Thailand, as part of a training camp with his team of boxers, which includes the likes of world rated super bantamweight Brock Jarvis and welterweight slugger Jack Brubaker.
A typical evening of training took a turn for the worst when the three-division titleholder was rushed to hospital on Friday night after a scary bout of pneumonia.
As leading boxing broadcaster Ben Damon explains, the 55-year-old quickly found himself in intensive care, where he now battles for his health.
“It has been a scary few days for all of Australian boxing, or more accurately for all of Australia and for boxing people across the globe,” Damon told Aus-Boxing.
“Jeff Fenech is our greatest ever fighter and a legend of the sport and to know that he is struggling, in shocking pain and in a bad way 7500 kilometres away from home is just a sickening thought.
“Jeff has not been himself over the past couple of weeks. He’s been suffering with what he’s been told are ‘frozen’ shoulders and he’s been complaining that his mind and his memory have been foggy in that time as well, but this training camp in Thailand was booked and at such an important time for his fighters that he never considered cancelling or postponing.
“That is the nature of Jeff – he would have put the interests of his boxers ahead of what was best for him. Unfortunately, on arrival in Bangkok he developed pneumonia, or existing pneumonia worsened, and he was completely floored and eventually bedridden.”
If it wasn’t for some quick thinking from his fighters, who have been by his side since day one, Fenech could have lost his life.
“He asked the boxers not to fuss over him but thankfully they took it upon themselves to call an ambulance when Jeff was at his worst,” Damon added.
“Doctors have now told him that if the ambulance was not called when it was he may have died.”
Citing a phone conversation with Fenech himself, Damon gives a detailed description of Fenech’s worrying condition.
“I’ve been speaking to Jeff daily on the phone and he does not sound like himself. He is terrible pain and awful discomfort,” he said.
“He tells me he has been coughing up a lot of blood and his lungs are in horrible condition. He can’t sleep, he can’t roll over – it’s a bad situation and it has worsened with doctors diagnosing an infection in a heart valve, which sounds like it is related to the bacteria from the pneumonia.
“Any infection around the heart is obviously a very serious issue and as tough as he is Jeff is clearly scared of what’s ahead. The situation is now that they are treating the infections with antibiotics and surgery on the heart valve has been scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday) night, Bangkok time.
“Assuming all goes well, and there is absolutely no reason to expect that it won’t, Jeff expects to be recovering in Bangkok for a few weeks or so. He’s in the middle of a fight but if you’d want to back anyone in the world in a fight like this it would be the great Jeff Fenech.
“There’s no reason to think he won’t be back home and back to his best very soon and fingers crossed that’s exactly what happens. There will be a lot of interest in news of a successful surgery tomorrow night and Jeff tells me he has been overwhelmed already by all the support he’s received from around the globe.
“Amongst all the calls and messages he heard from his friend Mike Tyson, but the real boost has been the arrival of Jeff’s wife Suzee to be by his bedside.”
Fenech’s team of fighters, all with scheduled dates of their own, will return to Australia shortly to continue their preparations for opportunities in the coming weeks.
“With Jeff laid up Jack Brubaker, Brock Jarvis, Hassan Hamdan and the other boxers have continued their training camp and in typical fashion Jeff has been as concerned with their training as with his own health,” Damon concluded.
“He’s even apologised for letting them down which is obviously ridiculous but a testament to where Jeff is at as a trainer at this stage of his life. I did a podcast chat with Jeff a few weeks ago where he discussed his renewed passion for boxing since Brock Jarvis came along.
“Now he’s added Jack Brubaker to the stable for his fight with Tim Tszyu and it’s really starting to feel like the Team Fenech days all over again. Jeff has his love for the sport back and a committed Jeff Fenech is great for these boxers’ careers and for boxing overall in Australia. Now we all just need a healthy Jeff Fenech back home as soon as possible.
“Brock and Hassan have fights booked in late-November and Jack’s fight is December 6 so there will need to be decisions made on the nature of their preparations from here but obviously the main focus for everyone is on Jeff’s health.
“The boys are due to fly back home tomorrow night so hopefully by the time they land we have received the news that the surgery has been a complete success and that the legendary Jeff Fenech is on the mend.”
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