Joe Bugner Keeps on Coming Back - Interview By David Ruff (Sept 21, 2010) Doghouse Boxing
Joe Bugner left Hungary at a very young age. When the Soviets took over his homeland, he and his family moved to England. Joe got involved in sports as a child. He was great in sports and a discus champ at the time. A friend, Andy Smith, got him into boxing. He boxed 16 times as an amateur, winning 13 bouts. Smith, unhappy with the way things were going, felt Joe should go pro, which he did at the age of 17--making him the youngest boxer in England to ever go pro. Joe lost his first pro bout but came back to win many bouts. Joe is a citizen of three countries, but makes his home in Australia at this time. His record is 83 fights, with 69 wins, 43 wins by KO, 13 losses, and one draw.
In 1975 he fought Muhammad Ali for the second time, for the world heavyweight championship, losing on points. He also fought Joe Frazier, Ron Lyle, Jimmy Ellis, Chuck Wepner, and the great Henry Cooper, just to name a few. He beat Cooper for the EBU, British Empire, and British titles. He beat Greg Page, Jimmy Ellis, David Bey, James “Quick” Tillis; and he lost to Ernie Shavers, Ron Lyle, and both Joe and Marvis Frazier. He lost his first pro fight to Paul Brown but beat him five months later.
Bugner relocated to Australia in 1986, adopting the nickname of "Aussie Joe." He made two more comebacks, one in 1987, losing to Frank Bruno; his final comeback was in the nineties, when he won the Australian heavyweight championship in 1995. In 1998, at the age of 48, he defeated "Bone Crusher" Smith for the WBF Heavyweight Championship, making him the oldest man to win that title. Joe has also won several European titles: He was European heavyweight champion as well as British Commonwealth champion and was ranked in the top ten for a while. Joe decided to retire in 1999. He's done some work since in TV and movies, mostly in the UK and Commonwealth. Joe's like a Timex watch: he just keeps on ticking.
Here's bugner's answers...
1. How did you first get started in boxing?
I started to box through need, I was born into a family of five sibs and a single parent (mother) money was very hard to get back in 1966, I worked as on apprentice engineer for the British Navel Submarine Department, Fitter turner getting $8 a week, I hated going to college 3 days a week and 2 days practical , I quit at the end of 1967. I was talked into going and trying boxing,My first love was athletics throwing the discus, I went into the junior record books as the best thrower for my age of 14yrs, 55.5metres a world record that stood for 22 some odd years, in them days no money was in Athletics . My first fight a huge disaster I lost on a TKO in 5 rounds.
What was your amateur record, and did you have any amateur titles?
My amateur record was 14-2, representing England once against Germany. The German went to sleep in the second round KO.3. What is your favorite book or movie about boxing?I must say I do not care for books when it comes to the fight game, movies are different as the acting is the most important part. The film on Jake Lamotta, who I met a long time ago staring Robert DeNiro was Great. The action and speech by DeNiro very close to the man himself.
What was your toughest fight as a pro?
I must say my toughest fight that I can recall was against Ron Lyle, 1977 Las Vegas Casers Palace. Big Ron was an animal who hated me on sight. He kept muttering to me, “I’m going to kill you white mother f…er.” The fight went the distance and I lost on points 12 rounds. The winner was to fight Ali for the world Title. I was rushed to the hospital with internal bleeding from the hammering to the body.5. What was your toughest fight as an amateur? I was 16 years and I was fighting the legend British Champion Billy Wells at the Royal Albert Hall London and I lost to Billy on points narrowly .
How would you change the state of boxing today if you could?
As I meet some of my old foes years later and see how they are, I shudder about the welfare of the fighter. Much tougher medical tests and brain scans on the fighters should take place regularly. We must introduce state and national medical regulations for protection to the athlete from sever head and physical trauma. Some one has to answer for the fighter who can’t protect himself. Promoters should take out a huge insurance policy for the health and state of the fighter once they retire. I know it’s easier said than done, fingers crossed.
Give me something pro or negative on your career?
Sadly 99% of fighters have zero idea about the money that they generate other than the purse for the fight, TV, Pay per view, Ad’s, and other promotions with out there knowing. There should be a government involvement on all monies earned by fighters so the man does not get ripped off.
Do you have any plans to do a book or movie?
Yes. I would love to write a book, a film would be an extra blessing. Hungarian 1956 refugee, from a small village running from the commies ends up in the UK not being able to speak English. He ends up as the WBF world Champion. Yes it would be great.
What are you up to now?
Right now I do a number of speaking engagements. I have done many feature films and TV adds which I must say I do enjoy.
What was one of the favorite venues you boxed at and why was it one of your favorites?
The most enjoyable and exciting fight was against “The Man” himself, Ali, for the world title in Malaysia in 1975 in on open air stadium. There was an assassination plot put out on me should I beat the great man Muhammad Ali. The hotel was shut down. Nobody was allowed to come and go with out a search. The day of the fight I was transported with my crew in on armed bullet proof truck. It certainly was different. I was scared and very excited at the same time. The Malay government asked me several times do I want to take the risk? I was not going to come all the way to Malaysia and not fight. The fight went the distance 15 rounds. I lost on points. No rifle or gunshots were fired. I went home very proud and alive.