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

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.”

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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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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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Anthony Joshua’s opponent, Helenius gets two-year ban

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 Anthony Joshua v Robert Helenius - O2 Arena, London, Britain - August 12, 2023 Robert Helenius in action during his fight against Antonhy Joshua Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge/File Photo

Finland’s Robert Helenius has been banned for two years due to Anti-Doping Rule Violations (ADRVs) for the presence and use of a prohibited substance for his bout against Britain’s Anthony Joshua in August 2023, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) said on Friday.

Former heavyweight world champion Joshua beat stand-in Helenius with a seventh round single-punch knockout at the London O2 Arena.

But Helenius’s sample from a voluntary drug test the day before the bout tested positive for clomifene, which the Finnish boxer said may have originated from consuming eggs and chicken.

Helenius, now 40, was provisionally suspended and UKAD said he was unable to provide proof that “the eggs and chicken meat he had consumed in advance of the bout originated from hens that had been administered clomifene”.

“Mr Helenius was therefore unable to identify the source of clomifene in his sample and therefore unable to reduce the applicable period of ineligibility of two years,” UKAD added.

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However, UKAD said that since Helenius was provisionally suspended on Sept. 18, 2023, he has already served 10 months of his ban which will expire on Sept. 17, 2025.

-Reuters

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Dubois promises to put an end to Anthony Joshua era

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It promises a tough time for Anthony Joshua if the words of Daniel Dubois are anything to go by, as both will clash in September.

“I’m aiming to be the best. AJ (Joshua) has been the King for a long time but on the night I need to be the ‘King slayer’. That’s the goal, the mission I have,” Dubois said at the news conference on Wednesday.

“I’m ready to let my fists do the talking. I’m 100% ready to go and to train like a beast.”

Dubois has a 21-2 record with 20 knockouts while 34-year-old Joshua’s record is 28-3, including 25 knockouts.

Usyk beat two-times heavyweight champion Joshua twice – first in 2021 to seize the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts and again in 2022 when he defended the belts – but the Briton has won his last four fights.

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“I went out to watch his last fight… Dubois has been on my mind for a while and he will be for the next 12 weeks,” Joshua said.

“Whoever was going to be there, I was ready to fight in September. It just happened to be him.”

When questioned about the age difference, Joshua said: “It don’t matter, we’re in peak condition. Age is just a number.”

Usyk had knocked out Dubois in nine rounds last year in a bout overshadowed by a low blow controversy when the Ukrainian went down gasping for breath after he was hit on the band of his shorts.

“Anthony and Daniel, I know the IBF title is important to you. It is my present to you on September 21,” Usyk said on X, opens new tab when he vacated the belt.

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The winner of the bout between Joshua and Dubois could then get a crack at the undisputed champion after Usyk and Fury have their rematch.

The undercard will have five bouts, including two for the IBF super-featherweight title and the WBO interim light-heavyweight title.

“This is probably the most stacked card in British boxing history, certainly in my lifetime, headlined by Daniel Dubois and Anthony Joshua,” Queensberry promoter Frank Warren said.

“Where better to do it at the national stadium, Wembley?”

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Usyk vacates IBF heavyweight title

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Oleksandr Usyk has vacated the International Boxing Federation (IBF) heavyweight belt, the Ukrainian said on Tuesday, five weeks after becoming the undisputed heavyweight champion.

The announcement comes after Usyk’s mandatory IBF title defence against challenger Croatian Filip Hrgovic was left pending and Daniel Dubois became the new interim IBF heavyweight champion by beating Hrgovic earlier this month.

The 37-year-old Usyk requested not to be stripped of his IBF belt to contest the undisputed champion title when he takes on Fury in their December rematch, where only the WBC, WBO and WBA titles will now be on the line.

The heavyweight IBF title, which Usyk held since 2021, will be up for grabs when Anthony Joshua takes on Dubois in September at Wembley Stadium.

“Anthony and Daniel, I know the IBF title is important to you. It is my present to you on 21 September,” Usyk said in a video message on X.

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Last month Usyk became the first undisputed heavyweight champion since 2000 as he claimed the WBC title by beating Tyson Fury by a split decision in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Usyk said he may return to the cruiserweight division following his rematch with Fury.

-Reuters

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