Interview with Joe Bugner

18.02.04 - By Tony Nobbs: With news of George Foreman returning to the ring, former title challenger Joe Bugner is hopeful a fight that he has been wondering about for almost three decades will eventuate against the two time Heavyweight champion of the world who he was close to squaring off with way back in 1977. Afternoon regulars at the Gold Coast PCYC can watch an enthused 53 year old Bugner go through his daily workouts with more vigour than usual as he trains himself into fighting shape. Not that this is a new habit or a novelty for the popular ĎAussie Joeí best described as Ďnatures gentlemaní.

He always trains whenever his busy schedule allows and is currently sitting on 120 kilo. For a man with 83 professional fights ( 69-13-1, 41 KOs) behind him, many against the best Heavyweights on offer in the past 35 years, Joe still has his wits. Bugner last fought in June 1999 beating Levi Billups, Foreman last fought in 1997 losing on points controversially to Shannan Briggs.

Eastside caught up with Joe for an interview after another of these workouts on Febuary 12 and the topic was not just about a comeback.

Eastside: First Joe, what is your opinion of George Foreman indicating he will return?

Joe Bugner: Well George is one of these guys who can pull out miracles out of nowhere. He is a very smart man and a fit man. If George was to comeback, it would be fine. The only problem he could face is if he fights one of these young guns. In saying that, if he is looking for an opponent, why not me?

ESB: How serious are you in saying that?

JB: Very serious. George still has the magic to draw a crowd. I was asked last week by a newspaper what I thought about George returning and I said what Iím telling you. A lot of guys come back because they have nothing better to do. I have. I donít have anything left to prove. Me and George were meant to face each other in 1977 and Iím starting to wonder maybe it was fate that prevented us from fighting back then. George ended up fighting Jimmy Young and subsequently lost and never fought again for about ten years.

ESB: You said to me earlier you are expecting criticism.

JB: Of course we will be criticised. People will say we are too old but that is what they said when George won the title the second time by knocking out Michael Moorer in the tenth round. No one gave him a chance. And he did it. If he can do it at fourty five why canít he do it at fifty five? I would love the opurtunity to fight George, I also want to add that I went the distance twice with Muhummad Ali and he couldnít. Muhummad was not able to stop me but he stopped George. I have regular medicals and Iíve been training every day and if something eventuated I would want to get to around 110 kilo. Iíve got ten to go. I was 103 when I fought Ali and 114 when I beat Vince Cervi in 1995 to win the Australian title. George and myself learnt our trade. We bring 109 years of experience in life (Bugner turns 54 on March 13). The old fox, you donít see him getting hurt. We know how to do things the right way and we both will train very hard. George would still have his punch. (Trainer)Les Wilson and myself would be putting in the hours here.

ESB: Ok Joe, getting away from George, what do you think of Lennox Lewisí retirement?

JB: I think itís a huge loss. Lennox has been one of the most underated Heavyweight champions along the line of Larry Holmes. Larry lived in the shadow of Ali and Lewis of course came after Tyson. Also the fact that he fought out of Britain made America less willing to recognise him. He beat everyone in such a professional manner and carried himself with class. He wants to retire so all the best to him. I think he is the best heavyweight since Holmes. As for boxing I think it is terrible because there is no one around to replace him. There is no one with spark. Tyson is there still, but none of these young turks will be allowed to fight him because you never know what he can still do.

ESB: A recent article on a web site rated you the best white heavyweight since Ingemar Johannsen. Your thoughts?

JB: Itís a great compliment. Itís very difficult to compare eras. I donít want to blow my own trumpet but hey, my record speaks for itself. My only crack was against Ali. I feel I was denied in many ways early in my career. I was around in a very strong time. If I had have been able to get a shot at someone like a Trevor Berbick I would have had a big chance to be champion.

ESB: Getting back to comebacks, you made one on 1986 and beat some handy fighters.

JB: Yes. James 'Quick' Tillis, David Bey and Greg Page. Tillis had just been the first to go the distance with Mike Tyson. All three of them were favored to beat me. Two years earlier Greg Page was WBA champion. Iíd been out for only two years but proved people wrong.

ESB: You then lost to Frank Bruno.....

JB: Yes. When I fought Frank, I thought he was such a strong chance to beat Tyson. He was young, hungry and could punch. Iím a big fan of Frank and I truly believed he had a great future after our fight. When those horrible things happened to him mentally, I was devastated when I got the call. I could not believe it. He is a top bloke, he deserves nothing but the best
and didnít need this. At a time like this you need friends and support. I have a lot of admiration for Frank. I know the English fans love him and I hope the press over there leaves him alone.

ESB: Joe, in a previous interview you said Ernie Shavers was the hardest puncher you faced. Who gave your most gruelling bout?

JB: Ernie came very close to defeating both Muhummad and Larry for the title and he knocked me out in two rounds in 1982. But the biggest beating I took was from Ron Lyle in 1977 who I fought instead of Foreman. He was one of those tough dudes that just kept coming. It was the only time I thought to myself, what am I doing this for. Going the distance with Ali, Frazier, was not near as bad. I had busted ribs, a sore jaw, you name it. For weeks I was hurting.

ESB: Tell us about beating James Bonecrusher Smith for the WBF title in 1998.

JB: People will talk about all the big fights I had when I was younger but to me, winning that title was a very special moment.

ESB: You have had a lot of experience. Any regrets?

JB: None at all.

Article posted on 18.02.2004

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