LAS VEGAS -- World Boxing Council super-featherweight champion Azumah Nelson of Ghana emerged last night with his crown shaky but intact after fighting a controversial 12-round draw with Jeff Fenech of Australia.
But the capacity crowd and ringside reporters at The Mirage, on hand for the Mike Tyson-Donovan "Razor" Ruddock fight that was to follow, seemed to share the opinion that Fenech had been robbed of the title and booed the decision loudly.
Fenech, 27, a three-time former world champion making his American debut, dominated the last six rounds and staggered Nelson in the last two.
Nelson, 32, looked like a tired, beaten champion as he walked to his corner after the final bell.
Riddick Bowe helped regain some of his luster as a heavyweight title hope by knocking out Rodolfo Marin of Puerto Rico at 1 minute, 45 seconds of the second round.
Bowe (24-0, 21 knockouts) was a controversial winner over former heavyweight champion Tony Tubbs in his previous fight, two months ago in Atlantic City, N.J.
The knockout punch left Marin bleeding from the mouth.
Examination at nearby Valley Hospital revealed that the jaw was fractured in two places. Marin is listed in good condition.
Bowe is rated fifth in the world by the International Boxing Federation and sixth among the heavyweights by both the World Boxing Association and WBC.
With the Tyson-Evander Holyfield championship negotiations at an impasse, Bowe, 24, could be in line for a title shot or bout against Tyson this fall.
Nelson was relieved after the score cards in his fight were announced. After judge Jerry Roth of Nevada voted 115-113 for the challenger, Miguel Donate of Puerto Rico ruled in favor of Nelson, 115-112. Jay Moretti of New Jersey called it even at 114.
Fenech, 27, seemed distraught by the decision. He had showed remarkable skill and stamina after brittle hands had caused him to quit fighting for 17 months.
It was his first professional loss in 27 bouts. The one-time street fighter from Sydney had ruled as bantamweight, featherweight and super-featherweight champion. His last loss came in the quarterfinals of the 1985 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.
The fight was marred by roughhouse tactics, and Nelson was admonished for punching after the bell.
Nelson's record is 33-2-1. He has owned the featherweight and super-featherweight crown, reclaiming the latter title by outpointing Juan Laporte in November 1990.