Tag Archives: Joe Frazier

Joe Bugner

Joe Bugner
Former British Heavyweight Champ
Has Unique Accomplishment

By Bobby Franklin

Joe Bugner was born in Hungary in 1950. In 1956 during the Soviet invasion of the country his family fled to Great Britain where they settled. At school Joe excelled at sports and eventually gravitated to boxing, and after a brief amateur career he turned pro at the early age of 17. He got off to a poor start losing his first bout by a TKO in the third round.

That first loss did not discourage the young Bugner and he came back to win 18 straight, 13 by knockout. His next loss was to the more experienced American Dick Hall who won a decision over 19 year old Joe.

Again, undaunted, Bugner would go undefeated in his next 14 fights earning himself a shot against Henry Cooper for the British Empire and European Heavyweight Titles. Bugner won by the closest of decisions that was booed by the crowd, but sportswriters were mixed on who they believed the victor was. Unfortunately for Joe, it was not only the controversy over the scoring but the fact he had ended the career of the beloved Henry Cooper that caused the public to turn on him. Being the man who dethroned “Our ‘Enry” would prove a curse to him. Coupled with the fact he was not a native born Brit he would not receive the adulation he should have gotten.

Bugner was only 21 when he defeated Cooper and by that time he had already beaten such known heavyweights as Jack O’Halloran, George Johnson, Chuck Wepner, Brian London, and Eduardo Corletti.

Joe defended the European title against Jurgen Blin but lost all his titles in his next bout against Jack Bodell. Bugner was criticized for not fighting hard enough to beat the veteran, a cry that would be heard throughout his career. There is a reason many believe Joe would often back off in a fight.

In a fight earlier in his career he defeated a fighter by the name of Ulric Regis by decision. Regis collapsed after the bout and later from a brain injury. An autopsy ruled the death was from a preexisting medical condition, but the memory of that tragedy buried in his subconscious, would cause him to hold back in fights.

After the loss to Bodell, Joe came back winning ten of his next eleven fights while also regaining the European Title. This would pave the way for him to fight former champ Muhammad Ali in 1973. That year would prove to be a pretty amazing one for Bugner and it is what made him unique.

He began the year with a victory over Rudi Lubbers and then traveled to Las Vegas to take on Ali. You may remember this bout as the one where Ali wore a robe into the ring that was given to him by Elvis Presley emblazoned in jewels with the words People’s Champ. At a party given days before the fight Joe met Elvis Presley and asked him if he could get a robe as well seeing that he was also a champion. When Elvis responded by saying ”You’re no champion” Bugner told the King to ”Stuff it” and walked out.

Joe went into the Ali fight an 8 to 1 underdog but gave a very good account of himself while losing a 12 round decision. You would think it would have been time for a rest, but not for the hard working Bugner.

In his very next fight less than five months later he took on former champ Joe Frazier in England. In the tenth round Frazier dropped Joe with a left hook, but Bugner arose and hurt the former champ near the end of the round. While the decision was not in doubt, Frazier knew he was in a fight and looked the worse for wear at the end. Joe Bugner left the ring with his head held high last night. He also left going down in history as the only man to fight Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali in back to back fights.

Amazingly, Joe was not done fighting in 1973. He would close out the year with wins over Giuseppe Ros and the hard punching Mac Foster. He would continue winning bouts and earn a rematch with Ali who had by now regained the heavyweight crown. The fight took place on June 6, 1975 in Kuala Lumpur. Bugner was disappointing in this match fighting from a mostly defensive stance while losing a one sided decision. This performance further fueled the anti Bugner sentiment in England where it seemed he just could not get any respect from the fans.

At the age of just 25 he had gone the distance with Ali twice and Joe Frazier once. Taking the two former champs in the space of a few months was a truly remarkable feat, but one that is largely forgotten.

After the second loss to Ali, Bugner seemed to lose motivation. He continued fighting but at a much less hectic schedule. In many of his fights from this point on he did not appear to have the drive to again earn a title shot.

In 1986 he moved to Australia where he continued fighting as well as acting in movies. There was talk of him fighting Mike Tyson, but in 1987 after being stopped by Frank Bruno he retired. He was 37 years old at time.

He made a comeback in 1995 and won the Australian Heavyweight Title. He was victorious in 8 of his last 9 bouts before retiring for good at the age of 50 in 1999.

Joe Bugner is rarely mentioned when talk turns to the heavyweights of the 1970s, but he should not be forgotten. He had a stand up European style and possessed a very decent left jab. He could put together combinations when he wanted to. He ended his career with a very respectable record of 69 wins (41 by knockout), 13 losses, and 1 draw. He was only stopped on four occasions.

Joe should be remembered as the only man to step in the ring with Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in consecutive bouts. The fact that he did this within a few short months of each other is truly amazing, and for this Joe Bugner deserves respect.
https://youtu.be/NQ0zQy8Uxzs

Frazier vs Ellis 1970

Jimmy Showed Incredible Courage

by Bobby Franklin
It was 1970 and Muhammad Ali was still in boxing exile. Ali had been deprived of a license to box by the commissions in all fifty states. The Ring Magazine continued to recognize Ali as the champion arguing a title can only change hands in the ring.

Meanwhile, two other fighters laid claim to a portion of the title. the argument being since Ali could not fight they were deprived of a shot at the championship. In 1967 the WBA sponsored a tournament to find a successor to Ali. Joe Frazier was invited to participate but declined. Jimmy Ellis did take part though he was considered a long shot at winning. He proved the pundits wrong when he went on to win the tournament by defeating Leotis Martin, Oscar Bonavena, and Jerry Quarry. If memory serves me right, Jimmy was the underdog in all three fights.

Frazier went on to win his share of the title with a knock out win over Buster Mathis. Joe’s portion of the crown was sanctioned by the New York State Athletic Commission and a few other governing bodies.

Five months after winning the WBA title Jimmy Ellis traveled to Sweden to defend it against Floyd Patterson. Patterson had taken part in the original tournament but lost a close decision to Jerry Quarry in a semi final match. Ellis, fighting with a broken nose sustained in the first round, won a hard fought 15 round decision over the former two time champion. Because of the damage to his nose Jimmy had to take some time off. When he was better there were proposals for fights against Henry Cooper and Gregorio Peralta, but neither materialized.

During the same period Frazier defended his portion of the title four times defeating Manuel Ramos, Oscar Bonavena, Dave Zyglewicz, and Jerry Quarry. Frazier was staying active and sharp.

The public, now not sure if Ali would ever return to the ring, began to clamor for a unification bout between Frazier and Ellis. You see, back then people were used to there being only one heavyweight champion at a time and having the title divided up just didn’t seem right.

At some point in late 1969 Ali had made a statement that he would never fight again. It was at this point Nat Fleischer, the editor at Ring Magazine, announced he would recognize the winner of an Ellis Frazier fight the undisputed champion.  Fleischer was the most respected voice in boxing and what he said carried a lot of meaning.

The bout was set for February 16, 1970 to take place at Madison Square Garden. As was the norm at the time it was to be a fifteen round affair, fifteen rounds or less.

Ellis entered the ring weighing 201 pounds to Joe’s 206 pounds. This was the heaviest weight Jimmy had ever fought at. Frazier was a 6 to 1 favorite though many in the press gave Ellis a very good chance at winning; after all, he had overcome the odds time and again. He also had something else going for him. Jimmy had tremendous power and speed in his right hand. He had dropped the iron jawed Bonavena twice with that punch. In two fights against Frazier lasting a total of 25 rounds Bonavena was never even staggered.

Both contestants entered the ring looking confident and fit. Ellis did look bigger than in previous encounters, but also looked strong. Frazier was lean and energized.

When the bell rang for the first round it was apparent what Ellis’s strategy was and why he came in at the heavier weight. Jimmy came out with a puncher’s stance. He feet were wider apart than usual, and even though he was moving, he was more setting himself up to be able to throw power shots as Joe came at him.

During that first round Ellis threw dynamite at the bobbing and weaving Frazier. Joe was hit on a number of occasions by the one/two combos Jimmy threw but none of the shots caught him squarely on the chin. While Ellis won the opening stanza Frazier had landed some telling left hooks to the body. Yank Durham, Joe’s trainer had taught his pupil years earlier the old boxing adage, “If you kill the body the head will die” and Joe learned the lesson well.

In the second round Frazier came out on fire. He was extremely aggressive and started crowding Jimmy. Ellis was able to tie him up but it took a lot of strength to do so. He was also taking more hooks to the body from Joe. It is also interesting to see Frazier throwing and landing the occasional left jab.

By round three Frazier was running on all cylinders. While Jimmy was still trying to land the one/two combos he was being kept busy just fending off Joe’s murderous assault. Frazier was firing off brutal combinations to the head and body. His attack was furious and by the end of the round Ellis had been staggered and his legs were very heavy.

Between rounds Jimmy was taking deep breaths while Joe looked like he had hardly broken a sweat.

The fourth round saw Frazier at his murderous best. Jimmy came out and immediately threw two right leads in a desperate attempt to turn the tide of battle. Frazier rolled under both of them and then went to work. He started with a vicious body attack and then moved to the head. At this point Ellis had lost the ability to move much on his legs. With about a minute left in the round Joe backed Jimmy up against the ropes and dropped him with a left hook. Ellis was up at nine and was now fighting on sheer courage.

Jimmy was trying hard to land that one good punch but he had nothing left. As the fighters moved to mid ring Joe stepped to his right and unleashed a brutal left hook to Jimmy’s chin. Ellis went down flat in his back. As the referee, Tony Perez, counted over him the bell rang. By some miracle Ellis staggered to his feet and walked to his corner. It was at this point, against protests from Ellis, that Angelo Dundee called the fight off. It was the right and decent thing to do. Jimmy’s courage could have gotten him killed.

Frazier would go on to defend his title against Bob Foster and then Muhammad Ali. Jimmy Ellis would continue fighting taking on Ali and much later have a rematch with Frazier. He would never again fight for the title.

When Heavyweights Ruled

 Jerry Izenberg Recalls The Time And Excitement

Once There Were Giants: The Golden Age Of Heavyweight Boxing

Skyhorse Publishing, NY, NY

Reviewed by Bobby Franklin

From the time of John L. Sullivan and through most of the 20th Century being the Heavyweight Champion of the World meant being the stuff of legends. It was as close to immortality as any man could get. Young boys would dream of growing up and one day being the next Jack Dempsey or Joe Louis. To hold that great title also meant being arguably the most famous man in the world. It is impossible to recall the Roaring Twenties without thinking of Dempsey. The 30s and 40s always have Joe Louis’s visage looking at us from that time of the Great Depression and WWII. As America got back to work after the War we had Rocky Marciano to remind us of the value of hard work and perseverance. In between each of these great champions were other great men who left their own mark on the history of boxing. The Heavyweight Championship was the most difficult to attain and most prestigious honor to capture in all of sports and I would argue in any realm of the world of entertainment.

It is sad that today it is just a memory. That great title no longer exists. Oh, there are people, a lot of them, who claim it but none who have earned it. I doubt there are any young men today who wake up in the morning with that dream their grandfathers and fathers had of being the Champ. Those days are far behind us, but they didn’t go away without a fight.

The final era when the Heavyweight Title still meant something was also one of its most exciting, Jerry Izenberg in his new book Once There Were Giants: The Golden Age Of Heavyweight Boxing (Skyhorse Publishing, NY,NY) brings us back to that very exciting time.

If you were fortunate enough to have experienced boxing from the 1960s until the late 1980s Jerry’s book will bring back terrific memories of what may have been the most competitive period in the history of boxing among the big men. Mr. Izenberg argues it was, and he is standing on solid ground when he says so. It was certainly a very exciting time to be a fight fan.

In a lively narrative Mr. Izenberg brings us to ringside and into the backrooms to visit with the fighters to relive many great moments.

As background Mr. Izenberg chronicles the rise and fall of the mob that took place from the 1930s up until the 1960s. We are introduced or reintroduced, depending on your age, to such characters as Owney Madden, Frankie Carbo, Jim Norris, Blinky Palermo, and many other gangsters who controlled boxing for decades. It is a sordid history of corruption and strong arm tactics and very worth reading.

After Rocky Marciano retired, the Heavyweight Championship fell into a sorry state. Cus D’Amato who had crusaded against mob control of boxing was able to take hold of the title with his young fighter Floyd Patterson. Mr. Izenberg sheds a lot of light on the real D’Amato who, it turns out, had his own mob connection. D’Amato also made it even more difficult for legitimate contenders to get a shot at the title because he was not going to allow his champion to step into the ring with any opponent who had a pulse. At least with the old mob a fighter could buy his way in. With D’Amato the division went into a period where having talent only increased a fighter’s chances of not getting a title fight.

Ironically, it took the underworld figure Sonny Liston to change things, though it took someone else to shake up the world of boxing. When Sonny won the title by destroying Patterson boxing epitaphs were being written. Boxing had gone from a mama’s boy to a man who was pure evil. It didn’t look like it could sink any further.

This is where Jerry’s book goes from the darkness to the glory times. A young Cassius Clay had returned from the Rome Olympics waving his Gold Medal and proclaiming himself “The Greatest”. He stepped up and whupped Sonny and began a new age in boxing. An age Jerry Izenberg was there to witness from beginning to end.

In a lively narrative Mr. Izenberg brings us to ringside and into the backrooms to visit with the fighters to relive many great moments. When Clay, now Ali, became champion he fought everyone. Of course, a number of these contenders had grown old waiting for a title shot, but they were no longer going to be denied. Ali fought often and was always heard from. He was loved and hated, and he was exciting. Boxing was now back in a big way, and Mr. Izenberg brings it all alive again.

As Ali was mowing down the old line of contenders a whole new crop was sprouting up. While none seemed an immediate threat to Ali, it was going to get interesting. Well, it did get interesting when Ali was stripped of his title for refusing to be inducted into the Army. With Ali sitting on the sidelines the heavyweight division still blossomed as many of the young prospects developed into serious contenders. By the time Ali returned to the ring boxing was a whole new picture. It had certainly become much more competitive and even more exciting.

Jerry Izenberg follows these events up until the implosion of Mike Tyson when it can be said heavyweight boxing was breathing its last. We are there for the three Ali v Frazier fights. The Foreman destruction of Frazier as well as Ken Norton’s win over and two controversial losses to Ali. And the rise of Larry Holmes, a fighter who never got the respect he deserved.

Mr. Izenberg’s insights are terrific, and his chapter on the Holmes v Cooney fight is particularly interesting. The racial overtones that fight took on were a sad episode, but it is good to know they were not shared by the fighters.

There are also many behind the scenes stories about the rise and fall of Mike Tyson that include one very personal moment the author had with the future champ as well as the story of Teddy Atlas’s break with D’Amato and Tyson. Boxing fans will love this.

And if that isn’t enough, Jerry takes you to the Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project in St. Louis for a visit with Michael Spinks. The visit took place at midnight in the notorious project and it took plenty of courage for Jerry to show up. It does result in a very interesting story.

Jerry Izenberg and Ali

If you want to know what competitive boxing is like. If you want to know what it is like to have evenly matched contenders fighting for the title. If you want to get a taste of the electricity that would fill the air all across the country when the Heavyweight Championship was on the line you will find it in Once There Were Giants. It’s unfortunate it will never be seen again.

Ali v Frazier I: 11th and 15th Rounds

Remarkable Moments In A Remarkable Fight

by Bobby Franklin

This coming March 8th will mark the 46th anniversary of the first Ali vs Frazier fight, The Fight of the Century. It will also be the first time the date will arrive with both men now having passed on. Rewatching this great fight it is hard to believe neither Joe or Muhammad is still with us. That night in Madison Square Garden they both appeared to be immortal. It was as if two ancient gods had stepped down from their mountains to do battle for control of the universe.

I am surprised how their third encounter has taken most of the spotlight over the years. While that was a great brawl, both men had lost much, if not most, of their great skills. The first bout was the only time in history when two undefeated men with legitimate claims to the Heavyweight Championship met to settle things. The fight lived up to all of the hype and even more. I truly believe the fight would be given more notice if Ali had won, and that is the reason the third fight is so often shown. The Ali publicity machine never stopped working while Joe Frazier slipped into a quiet retirement. It is too bad because their first meeting was one of the greatest fights and greatest sporting events of all time. It should be shown every March 8th. Fortunately, it can be seen on Youtube, and boxing fans should take an hour on the anniversary to watch it.

I have written about the fight on a number of occasions. Each time I watch it I see something new. Each time I watch it I am still in awe of what a battle of wills it was. Each time I watch it I am in disbelief of how these two men were able to hold up for fifteen rounds at such a torrid pace.

Today, as I reflect back on that night, I want to focus in on a couple of moments from that war. These occurred in the 11th and 15th rounds, and I would like to share my thoughts with my readers.

When the bell rang for the 11th round both fighters appeared to be slowing down. Ali was content to stay on the ropes and Joe was not landing with the same power he had been displaying over the pervious 10 rounds. The fight seemed to be losing its intensity and that was no surprise seeing the pace these two had set. Well, that was about to change.

With about a minute left in the round, Ali was on the ropes near a corner. Frazier had landed a couple of left hooks on Ali’s chin, but not with full force. Then it happened, Joe let a hook rip that caught Ali and buckled his legs. Muhammad attempted to get out of the corner and stepped to his right with Frazier in pursuit. This is a key moment in the fight and if things had gone slightly different would have most likely been the end of the bout.

As Ali moved along the ropes trying to escape from Joe, Frazier landed a powerful left hook to Muhammad’s jaw. Ali fell backwards and his arms swung back and away from his body. He was wide open to be hit at will. He was hurt and off balance. So why didn’t Joe follow up?

Watch this moment in the fight and you will see why. There are a couple of different views of it, but all clearly show what happened. After Joe landed that brutal shot and Ali’s legs buckled it appeared he was going down, and indeed he would have. Joe seeing him start to go down stepped away to head for a neutral corner. What then happened is that as Ali was on the way down his backside caught one of the ropes and held him up. Joe looked over as he was walking away and immediately rushed back to Ali. By this time Muhammad had righted himself and had his hands back in position. If Joe had not believed Ali was going down he could have landed at will and very likely ended the contest. In boxing, seconds and fractions of seconds make a difference, and it certainly did in this case. Frazier pummeled Ali for the remainder of the round. He staggered him a couple of more times, but he could not finish him off.

The 15th round produced another amazing moment in a night of great moments. In what is perhaps the most famous knockdown in boxing history, Joe dropped Muhammad with a tremendous left hook early in the round. Ali went down flat on his back. It looked as if the fight was over. However, in what seemed like a miracle, Ali not only got up but rose almost immediately. How was he able to regain his feet after absorbing such a shot? Both men were beyond exhausted. Ali was caught flush on the jaw by one of the hardest left hooks ever thrown. Or was he?

Ali used to brag that he had a built in radar that could detect punches that were about to hit him so he could avoid them at the last second. His radar was working here. He was not able to avoid the punch, but if you watch closely as the blow connects you will see Ali moving his head as the punch makes contact with him. Basically, he, to some degree, rolled with the punch. It was still a brutal shot, but it would have been much worse had he not moved the way he did. It is amazing his mind and body were still able to respond in that manner seeing how grueling the fight had been.

I remember seeing Arthur Mercante, the referee for the fight, interviewed once. When questioned about the 15th round he said he felt the men were so tired that he feared he might push one or the other over while breaking a clinch. It just shows how much Ali and Frazier drove themselves in this battle of wills.

I once had a chance to talk with Arthur Mercante. I asked him how much he got paid for officiating that night. He told me he received $500.00. When I said it didn’t seem like much he turned to me and with a big smile said, “I would have done it for nothing.”

This March 8th take an hour to watch this fight. Do it to honor two great athletes. Do it to remember what boxing once was.