|JEFF Fenech can finally close the book on Azumah Nelson after he beat his nemesis at Vodafone Arena, but after 16 years it wasn't sweet.|
Fenech made good his promise to avenge the two most bitter results of his professional boxing career by beating his Ghanaian opponent on a majority points decision after 10 rounds.
But their junior middleweight exhibition bout will not sit comfortably aside their fabled fights in Las Vegas in 1991 and Melbourne in 1992.
Both boxers' verve and power has clearly diminished over the years, although that was a given for two fortysomethings who had not fought professionally for a decade.
However what the years had taken, the pair made up for in endeavour as - aside from a dawdling first round - they slugged it out in the corners.
They traded heavy blows - Fenech's upper cuts and Nelson's hooks were notable - but the Australian incurred boos from the crowd as he chose to evade his opponent through the final two rounds.
The judges scored the fight 96-94, 96-94 and 95-95 in Fenech's favour.
Fenech admitted he danced around the ring to avoid injury late in the bout, after Nelson had struck him a painful blow in the ribs.
"I know it wasn't the old Jeff Fenech, but hopefully it was smarter,'' he said.
"I had to make sure I got protected as much as I could. Azumah Nelson is a great warrior and I am honoured to have a little win over him.''
But Nelson claimed the fight should have been a draw and was critical of Fenech's tactics late in the bout.
"It should have been a draw ... it's not a fight when he's running away.''
It was the first fight for Fenech, 44, since 1996 and the first for Nelson, 49, since 1998 after the latter had to be convinced to take part in this rematch.
However what the bout will do for both fighters' lasting reputations - Fenech was one of Australia's great boxers and Nelson is idolised in his homeland - remains to be seen.
Fenech's win squared the ledger against Nelson, but the Sydneysider is still adamant he was the better fighter in 1991, when a controversial draw denied him the dream of holding four world title belts.
But it was Nelson's left hook that proved the deciding factor in the rematch the following year.
The bout failed to fully capture the public's imagination, as the 10,000-seat stadium was only two thirds full.
The crowd did contain its share of notables, including cricket great Shane Warne, rugby league player Wendell Sailor, AFL stars Brendan Fevola, Matthew Richardson and Matthew Lloyd and underworld figure Mick Gatto, who provided the gym Fenech trained in.