RingSide Report

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Ringside Report Looks Back at Former World Title Challenger James “Bubba” Busceme


By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

I was 9 years old. In Ayr we were all going Dutch or German due to the World Cup that was playing out across the sea in West Germany and we, Scotland, had been unbeaten in our group stages; like Scotland always do, they got thrown out because they didn’t do enough to qualify.

The final was going to be between the mastery of the Germans and the little Emperor, Franz Beckenbauer or the flair and the beauty of Johan Cruyff. Sport had got through and beyond the Munich Olympics and the tragedies that had happened there though we were still in the grip of the naivete that would go on to be shattered at the height of the terrorist outrages in Europe of the decade, to come.

Sport in Scotland at the time was all about football.

Actually, sport was all about…

Us as a nation as politically Scotland had become increasingly demanding of their place in the world – the beginning of the rise of the independent movement was about to do more than take shape; a Scottish movement with Margo MacDonald and Jimmy Reid was about to form shapes, the like of which we did not realise would revolutionise more than politics but the Scottish psyche.

It was heady days and my memory tells me that the summer was warm and the country basking in glory.

There was however more than us going on and in Texas, James Busceme, 30-6, 24 KO’s went professional at a time when our attention was elsewhere. Things, however, were on the rise because as “Bubba” Busceme was joining the ranks of a sport that was about to rumble… in a very specific jungle…

In Beaumont Texas, he was ready to begin a 9 year career with 36 fights that would see him take on Alexis Arguello, 77-8, 62 KO’s in a WBC lightweight contest held up as one of the fights of that particular decade –the 1980’s.

Before he got there, and a veteran of, allegedly, some 500 successful amateur fights, Busceme was a decorated amateur and the National AAU champ, Golden Glove champion and in 1972, at Munich, an Olympian.

Although he was unable to medal in Munich, losing to the Eastern European, Jan “Zap, Zap” Szczepanski of Poland, who won the Gold, meaning there was absolutely no disgrace there, Szczepanski had gone into the entire contest as a very heavy favorite to take home that Gold Medal.

Entering the professional ranks in 1974, Busceme was to fight for a short period of 2 years and then left the sport for a period of around 3 years before returning in 1979 when he went on to what was seen as his greater glories as a professional athlete.

The highlight of highlights came in 1982 when he fought Arguello for the WBC world championship at lightweight.

Once again, the Gods of boxing were not on Busceme’s side and though he fought a great fight against Arguello, Arguello was no idiot. He knew that Busceme was doing enough to steal rounds, so he stepped it up. Arguello became even quicker than Busceme ever thought he was.

Busceme was a cute fighter, a real ring master who liked to play possum and drag people into a corner where he would elbow them into the range his short arms allowed – then he came up against a craftier opponent.

It came to an end in round 6 when Arguello, counter punching for most of the fight, staggered Busceme, Busceme dropped his hands and the referee jumped in to stop it. All of the score cards at the stoppage were separated by only 1 point, it was THAT close. That stoppage halted Busceme’s world title ambitions for the first but not the last time.

Busceme did not stop there but went on to fight 5 more times, winning 3 of them. Those 2 losses came at the final bell of his career and included a majority decision loss against Livingstone Bramble. Had he beat Bramble he would have been next in line for a shot at the world title, once again. Less than 2 years after the fight against Bramble, Bramble went on to beat Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini to take his WBA lightweight title so again here was a fighter that Busceme took close but fell just that little bit hort.

His final fight saw him stopped by Mike Anderson on the 19th March 1983; 1 year, 1 month and 6 days after his near world title attempt.

Whilst his father had coached him on the way to the Olympics, Busceme, as far as I can find, did not go into coaching boxing after his career, but taught English in Belize after.

For many his was a career that never got to the lucky point, where the Gods of boxing sat in a row and pointed and never said, “YOU!”. From an Olympic draw that was unfavorable, to a world title fight, at home, that was stopped and then to a majority decision against Bramble that, had he won, could have set up a second world title attempt – or so we think…

What we know, is that he fought at a time when it was not as easy to engineer world title opportunities and now sits amongst us as one we should remember and revere.

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