The legendary Joe Bugner

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The press was nice to him when he beat Henry Cooper. In fact they were in my opinion, at their nastiest.

How dare a Hungarian be given the decision over such a British icon?

The So-called king of British Boxing, Henry Cooper, was to end his professional boxing life with a loss to a 21-year-old who was not only fresh into the sport, but he wasn’t even born here.

For years we were meant to believe what the sports writers said, as they didn’t want to fall foul of the big Boxing promoters…

Back then it was Jack Soloman and Jarvis Astaire who ran things in London with Mickey Duff close in the ranks. Because Bugner beat Cooper he was hated?

Shame really because I recently interviewed Joe at a fantastic event in Sheffield and found him to be one of the nicest and gentle people in the boxing world. He has a charming character that is both positive and addictive.

After missing the former British, Commonwealth, European and WBF World champion at an event in Wolverhampton, I drove up to The Hilton Hotel in Sheffield city centre and was made more than welcomed by the private collection of fight fans who were also waiting to meet Bugner.

When I first saw the man giant, you knew you was in his presence, 6 foot 4in wearing a black shirt and slacks he was stood in the lobby on the first floor of the building greeting everybody.

I looked over at him and was so shocked to see how well he looked. He is a beast of a size and looks healthy.

He has all the looks of a cowboy from a 1960s Clint Eastwood film. The glare and stare like a stone cold killer waiting in the shadows near the saloon, studying the swinging doors for movement of everyone who enters the premises. Don’t be fooled, this man did and can fight and at the now age of 64 he looks leaner and cleaner than a George Forman’s grilling machine!

Jozsef Kreul aka Joe Bugner was born in Szeged Hungry on the 13th March 1950. At the age of 6 he and his family was forced to leave their country when the Soviet Union invaded. After fleeing his they made their home in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. A bright kid and compared to the others of his age, he was a lot taller and stood out just a little bit more than average.

At the age of 15 Joe was placed into the Guinness Book of Records for junior discuss throwing. Loving sports from an early age, Joe tried his hands at football, cricket and other sports, but soon realised that they was just not for him. He headed to the Bedford Boys boxing club and was soon under the wing of trainer Paul King.

In his amateur career, Joe only had 16 fights and only 3 losses. At the age of 17 and in a rush to make his mark, he turned professional, hoping to make it big. Well it wasn’t the start he wanted and he was stopped in the 3rd round by the referee in the contest against Paul Brown. Over the next two years he won 18 consecutive fights, 13 by stoppage. In 1970 Joe was becoming the talk of the towns and Birmingham sent him Johnny Prescott. John took him 8 rounds but lost on points.

Ray Patterson brother of Floyd got the same decision while Brian London got stopped in the 5th and Chuck Wepner only made 3. Over the next 29 years hungry Joe never avoided a single person; Carl Gizzi, Bill Drover, Jurgen Blin, Jack Bodell, Mac Foster, Jimmy Ellis, Ron Lyle, Richard Dunn,Ernie Shavers, Joe Frazier, Marvis Frazier, James Tillis, Greg Page, Frank Bruno, Scott Welch and finally James Bone Crusher Smith all stepped into the ring with the tall, static but awkward fighter. But what has made Joe a household name was his meeting with Sir Henry Cooper & Muhammad Ali.

At the age of 21, Joe took Cooper the full distance in the 15 round match.

It was the 16th March 1971 Cooper had called time on his life as a pro fighter and this was to be his last fight. Cooper stated before the fight to the press that he was going to retire from boxing. He was suffering from pain in his joints and skin issues and had gone as far as he could with boxing. Wanting to finish on a fantastic fight and win, Cooper and Bugner went to the final bell. It was looking to be a draw until the referee awarded the fight to Bugner by quarter of a point. Cooper never spoke to Bugner again and only spoke to the referee on his deathbed.

When I chatted with Bugner he said this country only remember him for either the Ali fights or more so for the Cooper fight. He went 27 rounds with Ali and it was Ali who claimed Bugner would be one day a World champion.

I asked Joe, what was his best fight, “Meeting with Joe Frazier,” he replied. He admired Joe and his technical ways. Frazier was the best in the business, He was able to clip the wings on the butterfly Ali. Bugner said being given the go ahead to face Frazier was a happy and sad occasion. Happy to be good enough to fight not just his idol but also to know he was good enough to get in the ring with him. They fought at Earls Court on the 2nd July 1973.

After 12 rounds Joe Frazier was given it win by the referee. Bugner said the referee Harry Gibbs who stood on the Cooper fight was the same referee for the Frazier fight.

He was in a legal battle against Cooper over corrupt allegations. Some years later Henry Cooper had to pay Gibbs a liable settlement after Coopers statement fell to its knees. Bugner is not bitter really about his boxing life. He always wanted to fight George Forman, but Forman didn’t want to fight him.

On the 4th of 1998 July Bugner did an unbelievable thing in boxing. He became the WBF World Heavyweight Champion when he beat Bone Crusher Smith by TKO in the first round.

Living in Australia Bugner does not travel to the UK often as it’s a 32 hour flight and can be so demanding on the body.

He said, “I love the UK but my life is in Australia now.” Bugner was accompanied on his UK journey with one of his former opponents Ernie Shavers. Shavers, who was declared the hardest hitting boxer in the World also fought Ali and had stopped Bugner in their 2nd round meeting.

Both on the night were more than happy to help advertise and promote my boxing pages in this paper.

Joe Bugner, My Story is available at www.amazon.com

 

Joe Bugners Statistics

  • 83 fights: 69 wins (41Knockouts, 26 decisions, 2 disqualifications) 13 losses (4 by KO, 9 decisions), 1 draw
  • Nearly 70% stoppage rate
  • 16 ABA fights
  • Pro at 17 years of age
  • Former International, European, British & Commonwealth champion
  • Retaining 3 titles for 9 years in a row
  • Ranked 4th heavyweight behind Ali, Frazier and Foreman
  • Won the PABA title in 1996
  • Pacific and Australasian Heavyweight -defended it in 1998
  • Fought for WBA/WBC Heavyweight titles