Bugner back to talk a good fight

Clive White hears some familiar sounds from a 46-year-old British heavyweight
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Even Muhammad Ali in his prime would have been hard pressed to live with Joe Bugner yesterday - as far as talking a good fight goes, that is.

Boxing's latest fighting gran- dad, just off the plane after a 23-hour flight from Australia, look- ed in surprisingly good shape, physically as well as mentally, as he sparred with his old media mates of two decades ago at the Cafe Royale in London yesterday. Let's hope he is still in the same condition after the latest of his comebacks on 16 March.

The danger to Bugner lies not so much in the punching power of his opponent, the little-known British and Common- wealth champion, Scott Welch, whom he meets at the Deutschland Hall in Berlin, as the temptation to carry on boxing at the age of 46 should he win. But since the fight is on the same night as not only Bruno-Tyson, but Naseem Hamed's first defence of his World Boxing Organisation featherweight championship against Said Lawal, there is every chance that it could go completely unnoticed outside of Berlin bierkellers.

Thanks to George Foreman, the prospect of fighting grandads is not as preposterous as it ought to be. Indeed it was hard not to see the funny side of this particular match, given that Welch owns two old people's homes on the South Coast ("I'm used to dealing with old people").

The affable old champ took it all in good humour, though he was bitter about the British Boxing Board of Control's refusal to grant him a licence to fight in this country. The Board have said they will review their decision if he wins. The Budapest-born Bugner was never taken to his adopted country's bosom like Our 'Enery and believes that "[one or two at the board] still have the needle" with him for beating Henry Cooper in that controversial contest, the 25th anniversary of which he will mark with the fight against Welch, who was two at the time. "Cooper walked in my shadow as a fighter," Bugner said.

Carrying a couple of stones more, at 18 and a half, than in his halcyon days when he fought very creditably against the likes of Ali and Joe Frazier (whom he still believes he beat at Earls Court in '73), Bugner sees this undercard match as a mere stepping stone to the likes of Tyson (shudder the thought), Bruno and Bruce Selsdon. "I would love to eventually fight Bruno again because I believe I was done an injustice in our fight at White Hart Lane nine years ago," Bugner said. "He was allowed to get away with things that were totally out of order. I reckon he must have hit me about seven times on the back of my head without the referee intervening once."

Never in love with the game, Bugner is a gentle giant who only ever produced his best when riled or hurt by an opponent, the Bruno match notwithstanding. He put it down to pre-fight nerves that he never really punched his full weight. "I'm more relaxed now," he said, "and ready to give young Scott a few lessons." For Bugner's sake, it is to be hoped he will be able to see the sucker punch coming rather better than he did at yesterday's press conference.

"What was the worst loss you ever had, Joe", Welch enquired respectfully.

"Against Ron Lyle in 1977, in Las Vegas," replied Bugner. "I got the beating of my life."

"Be careful you don't get any flashbacks," came back Welch.