London, UK (September 29, 2023) - Joe Bugner's victory over Henry Cooper in 1971 remains a point of contention in British boxing history. Bugner won by a highly controversial points decision in a hard-fought 15-round bout, claiming the British, Commonwealth, and European heavyweight titles. However, Bugner felt he lost more than he won that night, as he faced intense hostility for defeating the much-loved Cooper, a national treasure.
Bugner was often a polarizing figure in the sport, with his numerous comebacks and the perception that he didn't do enough to win over boxing fans and the press. He continued fighting well into his 40s, even claiming a minor heavyweight title in his late 40s before retiring.
Despite the controversy surrounding his victory over Cooper, Bugner had notable fights against Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier in 1973, demonstrating his boxing ability. His performance against Frazier in 1973 at Earls Court in London is considered one of his finest moments.
Bugner faced criticism for his performance against Ali in their rematch, with some believing he didn't give his best effort. However, he redeemed himself with a one-round victory over Richard Dunn, regaining the European, British, and Commonwealth titles.
His career faced setbacks, including a brutal defeat by Ron Lyle in 1977, which Bugner described as the "biggest beating" of his career. He had comebacks and victories over fringe contenders but ultimately retired in 1999 after a long and eventful career.
Bugner dabbled in acting and gained public attention through his appearance on "I'm a Celebrity." His retirement had its challenges, including financial losses and health issues, but he continued to show his fighting spirit. Despite the controversies, Bugner deserves recognition as a world-class heavyweight during a strong era for the division and as a symbol of hope for British heavyweights at a challenging time in the sport's history.
Joe Bugner is currently living in a care home dealing with dementia. The Sun covered the full story here.