'Aussie Joe' Bugner backs battler Jeff Horn

LEGEND: Boxing icon Joe Bugner, with the Withcott Hotel owner Neil Simpson, was guest speaker at the Famous Mud Crab Lunch, which raised almost $9000 for the AEIOU Foundation in support of children with autism.
LEGEND: Boxing icon Joe Bugner, with the Withcott Hotel owner Neil Simpson, was guest speaker at the Famous Mud Crab Lunch, which raised almost $9000 for the AEIOU Foundation in support of children with autism. Lachlan McIvor

BOXING: In the course of his career, Joe Bugner has stood face to face with some of the biggest and baddest fighters in the history of boxing.

The heavyweight held numerous championships and stepped into the ring against - and defeated - some of the greatest of all time, including conquering Henry Cooper, battling Joe Frazier and going the distance in two legendary bouts with Muhammad Ali.

More than 100 people packed the Withcott Hotel to listen to Bugner speak at the Famous Mud Crab Lunch last Friday, which raised $8950 for the AEIOU Foundation in support of children with autism.

In 1969, he met Ali for the first time and although he was labelled "the ugliest white boy” the American had ever seen, it was the start of a close bond between the two fighters.

They would go on to face off in the ring in Las Vegas in 1973 and again in Kuala Lumpur two years later, with Ali winning both fights on decision.

Bugner was saddened to hear of his friend's passing in June last year.

"Without any exaggeration I shed a tear for Muhammad, because he and I go way back,” Bugner said.

Bugner and his family fled their native Hungary to live in the United Kingdom when Bugner was six years old and he made the switch to Australia in 1986, taking out dual British-Australian nationality.

It was then he adopted the 'Aussie Joe' moniker and made his in-ring comeback, before eventually retiring in 1999.

Another Australian has recently taken the boxing world by storm. Jeff Horn stunned Manny Pacquiao to capture the WBO Welterweight Championship at the start of the month.

His victory by unanimous decision was not without controversy and Bugner believed the fight could have gone either way.

"I thought the fight was terribly close,” Bugner said.

"As far as Australia is concerned of course I was cheering for Aussie, but at the end of the day the fight could've gone to a draw.

"But either way it doesn't matter because we won.”

He believed the win was a big boost to boxing in the country.

"For a simple reason - when you've got close to a 100,000 people watching you and God knows how many on television, it was very important,” he said.

"I just wish, this is my opinion, that it was a bit more sensational.”

As a former champion himself, Bugner said while winning the belt was a massive achievement, it was all about what Horn did with it after that initial victory.

"When his defence comes, it will be a different kettle of fish... and it doesn't matter who he fights... Horn is going to have to be on the ball or otherwise he's going to get eaten,” he said.

"I'm telling him now as an Australian, he has to defend his title, not look after it.”

Topics:  aeiou foundation boxing famous mud crab lunch jeff horn joe bugner withcott hotel

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