Boxing legend Jeff Fenech’s toughest fight yet continues after life-saving open heart surgery in Thailand.
The former triple world champion, 55, was rushed to intensive care in Bangkok on Friday after he began coughing up blood at a training camp.
His wife and three children have rushed from Australia to keep a bedside vigil as Fenech recovers from a five hour operation on Tuesday night to repair a severely infected heart valve which almost killed him.
Kayla Fenech has been at her dad Jeff’s hospital bedside in Thailand since Tuesday
‘He’s a fighter, he always has been, so he’ll get through this,’ his emotional daughter Kayla told Seven News.
‘It was very hard to see him like that I hope to never see him like that again.
‘We all just started crying because he looked so sick, but we were all relieved.’
She and her siblings arrived at the hospital just 10 minutes before their dad was wheeled into theatre for the marathon surgery.
‘Thinking of you non stop. Love you so so much. See you very soon. Can’t wait to give you a big cuddle, kiss and to just be by your side. You’re going to pull through this dad. You’re the strongest man I’ve ever known,’ Kayla posted on Instagram at the time.
Her sister Jess added on Twitter: ‘Love you so much dad, we are all praying for you and thinking of you every single second that goes by and will be right by your side as soon as you open your eyes! You are so strong ! You are a fighter! Love you to death.’
An emotional Kayla Fenech says the boxing legend will get through his toughest fight yet
What was originally meant to be keyhole surgery changed to open heart surgery at the last minute.
Fenech had to be operated on in an elevated position sitting up so surgeons could drain fluid from his lungs while replacing the severely damaged heart valve.
‘We couldn’t crying because he looked so sick but we’re all relieved,’ Kayla told Seven News after the operation.
While the worst of his toughest fight yet is over for the boxing legend once known as the Marrickville Mauler, Fenech isn’t out of the woods just yet.
The threat of further infection remains high and Fenech will stay in hospital for another four to five weeks.
Jeff Fenech (pictured on Saturday) will remain in hospital in Thailand for another 4-5 weeks
Fenech is shattered by the setback, unable to return to Australia in time to walk his daughter Jess (centre) down the aisle next week after doctors warned it would be too risky to fly home
‘The next seven days are going to be incredibly important for Jeff, particularly with the infection status,’ family friend Dominic Jarvis told Nine News.
‘We’re hoping he’s got more strength left in him – and I’m sure he has – to get through this last hospital aspect of the ordeal.’
Fenech’s extended stay in Thailand means he can’t walk his other daughter Jess down the aisle next week after doctors warned it would be too risky to fly back to Australia.
Heartbroken about missing the wedding, Fenech’s spirits got a much-needed boost on Monday when he received a call from an old mate, ex-heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.
He received a call in hospital from old mate, ex-heavyweight champion Mike Tyson on Monday
The pair have been friends since 2005 and Fenech trained Tyson when the world heavyweight champion came out of retirement.
‘Tyson and his wife (Lakiha) called to see how Jeff was. That lifted Jeff’s spirits,’ Fenech close friend and renowned businessman Mark Bouris told The Daily Telegraph.
‘Jeff is no stranger to personal conflict. Like everything else, I know he will battle through it.
Doctors feared for Fenech’s life when he was rushed to hospital on Friday.
Jeff Fenech (pictured with his wife Suzee and daughter Jess) was rushed to hospital on Friday
An emotional Fenech broke the concerning news about his health to fans from his hospital bed on Saturday.
‘I’ve got some pretty bad news, I’ve got an infected valve that’s connected to my heart,’ he explained in a video posted by Boxing Epicentre.
‘Which means over the next few days they’ll try to get rid of the infection and then I’ll have to have surgery.’
He then broke down in tears about not being able to stay at the camp with his boxers.
‘I feel really bad for the rest of the team,’ a distraught Fenech says.
Fenech began boxing in 1984, the same year he represented Australia at the Olympics
Fenech began boxing in 1984, the same year he represented Australia at the Olympics in Los Angeles.
He cemented his status as a professional boxer and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002.
His record stood at 29 wins, three losses and a draw from 33 bouts when he retired in 1996.
Fenech’s wife of 23 years Suzee has flown to Thailand to be by her husband’s bedside