In the 1970s Joe Bugner was one of the biggest names in the boxing world. Born as József Kreul Bugner, he moved from Hungary to the United Kingdom after the 1956 Revolution. We look back at the boxer-turned actor’s spectacular career.
According to his brother Vilmos, Joe Bugner started boxing after he was stabbed by a Sicilian boy at school in Bedford. Growing up in a rough area, he saw boxing as a form of self-defence.
As index.hu wrote, his first professional fight – which he lost – took place in 1967. However in 1973, after a series of victories – including the defeat of Dutch boxer Rudi Lubber – he travelled to Las Vegas to fight the great Muhammad Ali. Despite Ali winning, it was a close encounter as he was not able to knock out Bugner.
In 1973 he won the European Championships by defeating Guiseppe Ros from Italy. He got the opportunity to fight Ali once again in 1975. However, Kugner suffered a defeat at the hands of the American for a second time. Despite this, after the fight Ali commented that Kugner made his life very difficult in the ring and he believed that if he retired, Krugner “would definitely” become world champion.
At the 1976 European Championships he knocked out British boxer Richard Dunn three times, who was consequently unable to continue. But why was this result so significant? Earlier that year Dunn was defeated by Muhammad Ali. However, unlike Bugner, who took Dunn apart, Ali struggled to take Dunn down. Could Bugner defeat the greatest boxer of all time? We will never know the answer to that question as Bugner would never have the opportunity face Ali again.
During the 1980s and 1990s he fought less and less; he moved to Australia – where he received the nickname Aussie Joe – and played roles in various action films; he starred in Bud Spencer’s and Terence Hill’s ‘I’m for the Hippopotamus’.
However, the prospect of winning a world title was always at the back of Bugner’s mind, which galvanised him to fight on. Success came in 1998, when he became world champion by winning the World Boxing Federation (WBF) belt against the American James Smith. He stepped in the ring for the final time in 1999 against Levi Billups at the age of 49. He, of course, ended his boxing career with a win.
Bugner is currently enjoying his retirement in Australia.
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