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Well, let's get this over with once and for all. Who was the best white heavyweight since Ingo, or since 1960? Many names come to mind but few have reached the pinnacle of world champion status. You could make a case for South African Gerrie Coetzee who briefly held the W. B. A. crown. He was a game fighter and a hard puncher but his chin was not always reliable and his boxing skills were limited. No, for my money the best Caucasian boxer over the last 40+ years was none other than Joe Bugner.
Before you laugh look at the facts. Joe was born in 1950 and turned pro in 1967. He was still fighting well into the 90's. His record is a Who's who of the heavyweights of that era. He went the distance with Muhammad Ali twice. His second encounter was in a losing effort for the championship. In all he traveled 27 rounds with the Greatest. He also went 12 rugged rounds with Joe Frazier losing a close verdict. Bugner did win decision victories over title claimants Jimmy Ellis and Greg Page. Past his prime, he was halted by future titleholder Frank Bruno.
During his prime he defeated the best that England and the rest of Europe could offer. He met world title challengers like Henry Cooper, Brian London, Manuel Ramos, Ron Lyle, Earnie Shavers, Chuck Wepner, Marvis Frazier, Steffen Tangstad, James Tillis, David Bey and Richard Dunn. He also met several other respectable big men such as Mac Foster, Jose Luis Garcia, Larry Middleton, Eduardo Corletti, Jurgen Blin, Jack Bodell and Jack O'Halloran.
Bugner, who was born in Hungary, boxed out of England and later fought out of Australia. He was tall and well proportioned. He was a smart boxer with a good left jab. He was very mobile for a man his size and he had a pretty fair right cross. He also had a solid chin.
Jerry Quarry was a terrific fighter but Bugner fared much better against Ali and Frazier than Jerry did. George Chuvalo also went 27 rounds with Ali. He also went the full route with Ellis, Floyd Paterson and Ernie Terrell. Still he was butchered by Frazier and George Foreman.
Forget Cooney, he never did learn how to fight. Morrison had a good punch and decent skills but no chin. Duane Bobick was a solid puncher but slow and not very durable. Wepner was awkward and as game as they come but he could be easily outboxed. Henry Cooper had a great left hook but he cut easy and his chin was shaky. Boone Kirkman could punch but he had no defense. Randy Neuman was a good boxer with no punch. Karl Mildenberger was troublesome from his southpaw stance but little else. Ron Stander like Wepner was game to core. If courage alone won titles they both would have been champs.
By Jim Amato
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