Joe Bugner Interview: "Lennox Lewis has learnt his Lesson"

By Tony Nobbs

10.11.01 - 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 Coast PCYC.

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', Muhummad Ali.

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.

TN: 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.

TN: 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 as well.

TN: You were never forgotten by the Brittish public for beating Henry Cooper in 1971. Tell us about that bout.

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?

JB: Absolutely.

TN: There has been talk of a fight with Larry Holmes. What are the chances of that happening?

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.


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