Reflections on the Boxing Career of Joe Bugner

By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent

In 1956, Joe Bugner and his parents were refugees from the invasion of Hungary by the Soviet Union. An athlete and discus champion, Bugner began training in Great Britain and turned professional at age 17, embarking on a career of several decades in the ring as a heavyweight professional and world title challenger. Bugner got knocked out in the third round by Paul Brown in December 1967, a loss Bugner avenged by fourth round stoppage in May 1968.

In March of 1971, Bugner won the BBB of C British, Commonwealth and European boxing titles with a 15 round decision win over Henry Cooper, ending Cooper’s career. Nicknamed ‘Mr. Boredom’, perhaps Bugner’s boring fight style and his victory over the then popular Cooper prevented Bugner from realizing any kind of a popularity in the United Kingdom. As spectacular rise in the heavyweight division followed, with exception of 12 round decision losses to Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1973. On June 30, 1975, Bugner lost a 15 round decision to Muhammad Ali for the World Heavyweight title, his only world title challenge. Bugner subsequently scored a first round knockout of Richard Dunn to regain the BBB of C British, Commonwealth and European heavyweight titles, then lost a 10 round split decision to Ron Lyle.

Bugner fought on into his later years, winning the Australian Heavyweight title after he immigrated. Bugner won 10 round decisions over James Tillis, David Bey and Greg Page, though he got stopped in the eighth round by world title challenger Frank Bruno. Bugner’s career ended with a ninth round disqualification win over Levi Billups in 1999.

A widower, Bugner, who will turn 74 years of age in March 2024, earned much money, invested in real estate and a winery, but eventually endured financial and health problems in recent years. A heart attack and dementia eventually put Bugner into a care facility in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. Bugner no longer remembers his boxing career. Bugner’s final pro record was 69-13-1 with 41 knockouts. His son, Joe Bugner Jr., fought briefly in the United Kingdom as a heavyweight between 1991 and 1992, and posted a pro record of 9-2-1.