Joe Bugner Interview: "Lennox
Lewis has learnt his Lesson"
By Tony Nobbs
- Long time Heavyweight campaigner Joe Bugner believes
that Lennox Lewis has "learnt his lesson"
after losing his WBC and IBF Heavyweight titles
on April 22 to Hasim Rahman and will regain the
belts in the anticipated grudge rematch at the Mandalay
Bay Casino in Las Vegas next Saturday night. A disinterested
and poorly conditioned Lewis was knocked out by
a Rahman thunderbolt in the fifth round in Carnival
City, South Africa after weighing in 16 pounds heavier
than his in his previous fight with David Tua. This
writer agrees with Bugner's assessment after having
predicted the upset before the first bout (after
seeing the weigh-in it was a no brainer). Bugner,
51, is one of the more underrated contenders in
Heavyweight history, a boxer blessed with a solid
chin who never gained the recognition his skill
and achievements deserved. After being surprisingly
stopped in his professional debut in 1967 he came
back to twice go the distance with Muhummad Ali
and once with Joe Frazier (how many of todays's
crop would manage that?), amassing a 69- 13-1 record
with 41 knockouts during his 32 year career. He
currently resides on the beautiful Gold Coast, Australia
with his lovely wife Marlene and spoke at length
after a workout with trainer Les Wilson at the Gold
Tony Nobbs: Joe, first of all,
how do you see the Rahman-Lewis return bout going?
Joe Bugner: I truly believe that
Lennox Lewis has learnt his lesson and will come
back better prepared. In this fight he will win
and could possibly stop Hasim Rahman. He underrated
Rahman who is a puncher first time, but in this
fight he will work behind the left jab which is
a tremendous weapon for Lennox. He has a good team
and Rahman could be underestimating Lennox this
time like Lennox did to him in South Africa. Mr
Rahman might pay for some of the goings on since
their first fight. He caught Lennox with a tremendous
right hand and may be a little overconfident.
TN: How would you rate Lewis,
compared to previous Heavyweight Champions?
JB: I would rate Lennox as a boxer,
the best Heavyweight Champion since Larry Holmes,
a great boxer who fought in the shadows of Muhummad
Ali and is very underrated. Larry had a great jab,
like Lennox and Larry is one of history's better
Champions.The best of all time was 'The Greatest',
TN: What fight at the moment
would you most want to see?
JB: The fight I'd love to see as
a fan is Lennox Lewis v Mike Tyson. That would be
a classic boxer v puncher. At the start of the year
that was the fight I was most looking forward to
in 2001. Obviously it will not happen (this year).
I feel Lennox would win but it would be a great
fight and Lenox will have to prepare.
You had a long and brilliant career. What would
be the highlights?
JB: The highlights of my career?
Obviously going 15 rounds with Muhummad Ali is the
fight that most people talk about but I will say
that winning the (WBF) World Heavyweight Title at
the age of 48 is something that will never be done.
I defeated a fellow by the name of James "Bonecrusher"
Smith for that Title. People will say that it was
only the WBF Title but Roy Jones Jnr, one of the
greatest boxers of all time now holds that organization's
belt. Another highlight was beating Vince Cervi
for the Australian Title at the age of 45, in my
first fight for 8 years.
TN: To me, your fight with Joe
Frazier stands out.
JB: Smokin' Joe Frazier! When I
fought Joe I was only 23 years old. Too young to
realise the importance of the fight. I only just
lost the fight, very close, by a ridiculous margin.
A bit more maturity I could have won. Joe had already
beaten Muhummad , scoring a knockdown in the fifteenth
round in the first of their three battles. A very
tough, great fighter.
TN: And Jimmy Ellis
JB: Yes Jimmy Ellis, another former
world heavyweight champion who I defeated in 1974.
TN: You had some good wins in
Australia in the mid '80s while living in Sydney.
JB: Yes, James 'Quick' Tillis, David
Bey and Greg Page, who was a former WBA heavyweight
champion. Tillis had given Mike Tyson a tough fight
being the first to go ten round distance with him
only a few months before fighting me.
I remember you telling me a few years ago about
the time you sparred Sonny Liston.
JB: I went to New York to train
and get experience when I was a teenager. I was
at the gym and Sonny looked at me and said 'you
want to work boy?' We boxed a few rounds. He had
a tremendous aura. A great puncher, he could knock
you down with a jab. I was very careful
TN: Who was the hardest puncher
you ever fought?
JB: Ernie Shavers (koby2) was a
tremendous puncher. I fought him in 1982. He came
within a whisker of dethroning both Muhummad Ali
and Larry Holmes. Ron Lyle (L12) deserves a mention
TN: You were never forgotten by the Brittish public
for beating Henry Cooper in 1971. Tell us about
JB: I beat Henry Cooper in a boring
fight at his own game. May I say now, there is no
love lost between me and Henry Cooper. He was the
most overrated British boxer in history and a very
illegal fighter. He did have a good left hook but
when they brought in the rule of no hitting on the
break, Cooper was not the same fighter. Look at
his record he beat nobody of note. Jack Bodell,
Brian London, Joe Erskine, Karl Mildenberger. They
gave him a Knight Hood and they call him Sir Henry
Cooper. Can you believe that?
TN: Can I print that?
TN: There has been talk of a
fight with Larry Holmes. What are the chances of
JB: A fight between me and Larry
has been talked about for a long time now. There
was something in the British pres recently. Both
of us are 50 plus but we would put on a great show
with a lot of skill. But at the moment I'm happy
just coming to the gym and being around wonderful
people like Les Wilson, Mickey Jay and Graeme La-Roche.
TN: Thanks Joe.
JB: No worries old mate.