Jeff Fenech is no saint and the media should expose his dark side, following the lead of The Gold Coast Bulletin.

His career signature might have been “I love youse all”, but for former world boxing champion Jeff Fenech, life outside the ring has hardly been associated with such tender sentiments.

A serial history of post retirement violence whether visited on him or threatened against those who displease him, has more in common with gangsters and stand over men than a once revered boxer. In the past he has been warned by police that he was associating with dangerous criminals, and even now police have their concerns. Hardly surprising then that right now Fenech and his family find themselves fleeing their recently purchased $2 million Sydney abode when it’s used as target practice.

Since Fenech quit the ring, the murky and violent world of boxing he continues to inhabit as a manager and promoter, sees him attracting trouble likes bees to a honey jar. What started out as a bad week following a late night drive-by shooting with at least seven shots fired into his Lilyfield home last Thursday, was hardly improved yesterday when he threatened to break the legs of a Gold Coast Bulletin police reporter and a freelance photographer who invaded his Main Beach sanctuary!

In recent months Fenech has been the victim of an “unprovoked” attack that saw him bashed and slashed by four men then unknown outside his own part-owned Brighton-Le Sands restaurant in January. One 21 year-old man was subsequently charged in April with malicious assault, but Fenech has gone out of his way to talk down the attack as “just an unfortunate incident”. Something of an understatement if published reports are true that there’s now supposedly a $50,000 contract on his life by a Lebanese crime game arising from the “incident”.

At the time of the attack he felt inspired to request police give him some time alone in a cell with his assailants when they were caught. But two days later he refused to even give police a statement. So when the latest shooting attack occurred in abstentia while Fenech was returning from New York where he had been inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame, he took his family out of harms way by heading to the Gold Coast presumably to stay low and order up pizza!

But yesterday when the Gold Coast Bulletin’s chief police reporter Tony Wilson and a staff photographer sought to take his photo and get an interview with him outside the fashionable Palazzo Versace, Wilson wrote today how Fenech threatened to break his legs: “I can ring a guy now who will come and break your right leg right in front of you, and he won’t care if he goes to jail. I’m gonna do it now and he’ll break your legs. That’s what I can do.” He then told his photographer: “You’re a dog. You were just going to take my photo, you dog. I might as well knee you in the nuts.”

Wilson also reported that Fenech additionally threatened to break the leg of a freelance photographer who somewhat surreally has an artificial leg and walks with the help of a cane. The freelancer, who wishes to remain anonymous but was menaced in front of Wilson, was quoted as saying: “He threatened to punch me in the face then and there and said he and a mate would break my leg. And I only have one.”

Even then Fenech wasn’t finished with the intrepid Wilson and his own snapper, when on departing the scene to return to the Bulletin office, their four wheel drive was halted by Fenech standing in the middle of the road with arms folded, along with three male Versace staff also in proximity. Wilson claims Fenech tried unsuccessfully to open the passenger doors while a Versace employee blocked their path by standing in front of the vehicle, only moving aside after having his photo taken which finally allowed Wilson to drive away with hardly the story he expected.

Now while The Bully (the paper that is) pointed out that Fenech and his family was strolling around freely at a shopping centre and hardly appeared to be in hiding or “living in fear of his life”, Fenech had every right to refuse let alone welcome the media wanting happy snaps or having to answer any questions. Given the nature of what led him to flee Sydney in the first place, Fenech was hardly likely to greet the request with any enthusiasm, but Wilson got even more than he bargained for as he reported: “Fenech reacted angrily then launched into a vicious and obscene tirade and threatening physical violence”.

Certainly the tone of these threats as reported above are well known to journalists and editors over the years when Fenech becomes belligerent for whatever reason. But even allowing for his current agitation, such is his known form with media that it never ceases to amaze how Fenech has the nerve to regularly seek and be given the oxygen of favourable media publicity that’s always on his terms, and when it isn’t he resorts to type. The grim irony also seems to be lost on his highly taxed cranium that just as some people find him of interest with violent intentions towards him, he would seemingly not hesitate to have his violent intentions visited on media people by making a phone call.

For a man so fond of applying canine opprobrium to media people while demanding their support – surely it’s high time the media applied an even handed approach to Fenech? He should be told to stick his self-serving publicity where the sun don’t shine! Then let’s see how well he does without supportive media PR for his fights, or media puff pieces that suggest he still “loves youse all” while threatening to break people’s legs?

While Fenech has told police he believes the shoot up of his home is unrelated to his troubles arising from the earlier restaurant attack, the one thing he does know for certain is that in his career he has made plenty of enemies to the point where he must now be at the stage of always looking over his shoulder. It may well be that for someone who threatens others with violence, he’s now so far out of his league, the smartest thing he could do is leave the country and go and live in New York. There the business of being a former world champion boxer and fight manager/promoter might be a healthier occupation than it is proving in Australia, and who knows he could even be another Don King in the making?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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