JOE BUGNER was targeted by extremists before he challenged Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight championship, a new book reveals.
Fiaz Rafiq, ghost wrote ‘My Brother, Muhammad Ali’ with Rahaman Ali has interviewed opponents, family members and journalists for Muhammad Ali: The Life Of A Legend (Arena).
Bugner is among those interviewed.
He remembers sparring Ali and fighting him twice, on the second occasion for the world heavyweight title in Kuala Lumpar in June, 1975.
Bugner recalled that in the build-up to his title challenge his life was threatened.
He said: “People in Malaysia were very, very nice, but then you had the radical side who obviously didn’t want Muhammad Ali to lose.
“So they decided to give me a hard time. And eventually a week before the fight, there was a phone call made to the police by some expressing that this is a disgrace because there’s a Christian fighting a Muslim and it’s wrong.
“Saying: ‘We are in position now that we have to take action against this fight because this fight should not take place.’
“Then the police chief came to the hotel where we were staying and said we’re going to shut this hotel down and we’re going to put soldiers on each floor.
“Every floor had police with machine guns. I’m thinking: ‘This is absolutely absurd. Here I am, I’m challenging Muhammad Ali for the greatest title in the world and these bloody people are trying to threaten me and are getting the word out.’
“Three days before the fight, the Green Berets were brought in and they took over the hotel. I actually went to the fight in the back of a bulletproof vehicle. We get these radical guys, whoever they were, talking to people saying: ‘If Joe Bugner wins this fight he will not leave the ring alive.’
“This is a sporting event. It’s nothing to do with Muslims or Christians.
“After my fight I was put back in this armoured vehicle and went back to the hotel. Until we left the country, I had these armed soldiers who actually took us to the airport and out on the aeroplane and everything was fine.”
Bugner, who lost to Ali in the one-sided rematch, says the British press didn’t give him any credit after his points defeat to Ali and they never did.
“I had to leave England in 1975 and move to America because I couldn’t stand the morons who write for the press. They are the most horrible people – I’m talking about the writers. I’m talking about the newspapers. On the other hand, Boxing News was pretty fair 90 percent of the time.”