Sad tale on Muhammed Ali’s former opponent this Valentine Day

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<img data-lazy-fallback=”1″ data-attachment-id=”67377″ data-permalink=”https://www.sportsvillagesquare.com/2023/02/14/sad-tale-on-muhammed-alis-former-opponent-this-valentine-day/eefd8fd5-ali-and-burgner/” data-orig-file=”https://i0.wp.com/www.sportsvillagesquare.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/eefd8fd5-ali-and-burgner.jpg?fit=360%2C239&ssl=1″ data-orig-size=”360,239″ data-comments-opened=”1″ data-image-meta=”{“aperture”:”0″,”credit”:”Getty Images”,”camera”:””,”caption”:”American boxer Muhammad Ali (1942 – 2016) appears ringside to talk to British boxer Joe Bugner (left) after Bugner’s fight with Santiago Alberto Lovell at the Royal Albert Hall in London, UK, 3rd December 1974. Bugner had beaten Lovell. (Photo by Evening Standard\/Hulton Archive\/Getty Images)”,”created_timestamp”:”0″,”copyright”:””,”focal_length”:”0″,”iso”:”0″,”shutter_speed”:”0″,”title”:””,”orientation”:”1″}” data-image-title=”eefd8fd5-ali-and-burgner” data-image-description data-image-caption=”

American boxer Muhammad Ali (1942 – 2016) appears ringside to talk to British boxer Joe Bugner (left) after Bugner’s fight with Santiago Alberto Lovell at the Royal Albert Hall in London, UK, 3rd December 1974. Bugner had beaten Lovell. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

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American boxer Muhammad Ali (1942 – 2016) appears ringside to talk to British boxer Joe Burgner (left) after Burgner’s fight with Santiago Alberto Lovell at the Royal Albert Hall in London, UK, 3rd December 1974. Burgner had beaten Lovell. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

It is 50 years today since the memorable boxing bout of the legendary Muhammed Ali and Joe Burgner in Las Vegas, United State.

It was on a Valentine Day in 1973. Muhammed Ali died seven years ago. Burgner is alive, but in pitiable condition.

Now  72, he lives in a care facility in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. According to reports, he suffers from dementia and doesn’t remember his boxing career or anything at all.

A reporter of The Sun in the UK, Colin Hart reported that he visited Burgner a few days ago and tried callinghim in Australia, where he’s lived for 36 years, to reminisce with him about that 12-round non-title clash that grabbed the attention of the world.

“Though I haven’t spoken to him for some time I was surprised to discover his telephone had been disconnected.

Looking forward to my usual banter with him, I was horrified and saddened when I contacted his eldest son Joe Jr, 53, and learned why – his father is living in a Brisbane care home suffering from severe dementia”.

Dementia is generally characterised by memory loss and inability to have cognate thinking.

“Joe Jr said: “I’m afraid there’s no point in giving you Dad’s mobile number because I’m afraid he remembers nothing about his boxing career.”

The reporter declared: “I found it heart-breaking when I visited him just before Christmas because he didn’t seem to know who I was. 

“Physically he’s in great shape and looks years younger than his age. He will be 73 next month yet believes he’s only 38.

“He happens to be in his own little world. While we were chatting he told me his wife Marlene was out shopping and would be back soon – Marlene passed away more than a year ago.”

The Hungarian-born Bugner dominated British boxing in the 70s like Frank Bruno and Lennox Bruno did in the 80s and 90s.

At 6ft 4in with blond curly hair, he looked like a modern day Adonis. He was twice British heavyweight champion and three times European champ and was much better than he was given credit for.

Unfortunately he was never that popular with the fans, who never forgave the 21-year-old for getting a highly controversial points decision over national treasure Henry Cooper – which I thought was justified – that ended his career.

But his greatest achievements were twice going the distance with Ali and once with Joe Frazier – not many of our heavyweights would have been good enough to have done that.

And I have no doubt that if he had been fighting outside the Ali era – the Golden Age of heavyweights – he would have won one of the world championship belts given his speed, stamina and exceptional defensive skills.

But when he did fight Ali for the title in in Kuala Lumpur he hardly covered himself in glory.  It was in the open air and though it started at 9.30 in the morning it was extremely hot and humid.

Bugner didn’t try to win and was simply hell-bent on surviving the 15 rounds. In my SunSport report I scathingly called him a “Harmless Hercules.” I must say he accepted that he deserved the criticism and he never let it affect our friendship.

After chasing Joe for 45 minutes Ali was confined to bed suffering from heat exhaustion while we watched Joe swimming in his hotel pool sipping champagne after every lap.

Disgusted with him, promoter Mickey Duff said “I suppose Joe at the end of the day, money is the name of the game.”

Bugner replied “Yes – and being able to count it.”

The boxing community will be as upset as I was to learn of Joe’s memory loss. 

But Joe Jr added “Please let everyone know Dad isn’t unhappy. He is in luxury accommodation and the staff at the home are taking excellent care of him.

“I thought of bringing him back to England but his carers advised against it – they said he is used to a certain routine and it wouldn’t be fair to uproot him at this stage of his life.”

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