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“THE VULGAR BULGAR"
(Continued from page 63)
Nikolai was staring vacantly ahead,
His worst moment in the ring also.
turned out to be the most poignant.
In a _ wild affray in Hamburg, a
fraulein hit him over the head with
an umbrella, then was so shocked
by: her brutality that she fainted.
Nikolai was mainly concerned with hls
bruise till he saw the turn of events.
The crowd was already in con—
vulsions as the Wild Man from Bul-
garia. picked up the lady in his black,
sweating arms, surveyed the shout-
ing mob for a, giddy moment, then
quietly strode from the hall with his
patient and handed her over to the
NZ. SPORTS DIGEST
Nikolai nodded at the memory. :1‘11e
black hair that has gone uncut smce
the Bul arian Army last got at It
in Worl War 11 (I’m sure itlwas the
second war) spilled over his worn,
lined face. He took off the glasses
he wears when reading, and put them
away. The crowd had cheered, he
said, that once;
That was one night he was not
“The Hangman,” or ‘The Gorilla,” or
anything like that. And the very
memory moved Nikolai Zigulmoﬁ.
Next night he was back strangling
an opponent, shaking his ﬁst at the
frauleins in the rin side, and being
heated from the sta ium.
June, 1963 NZ. SPORTS DIGEST Page 63
the Vulgar Buigar. shook a
ham fist at the audience. ran
a hand Jrhrough his shoulder-
iength black matting, glared
a t a w o m a n ringsider.
smoothed his great black
moustache —— and turned
bare-footed on the referee.
The Wellington crowd roared,
hooted, stamped and catcalled. car-
ried away by nothing so much as the
sound, once again, of their own
It was razzlin’ time once more in
a New Zealand town hall and the
traditional format of a so itary duo
was creaking the ropes and thumping
the canvas as if the tag-team craze
had never disturbed a ring hght.
For his role as master of cere-
monies in this revival of the ancient
art, surly Nikolai had credentials.
Round the thumperies of Europe and
Asia he had been variously billed as
“The Hangman,” “The Gorilla,” “The
Wild Man from the Mountains."
The skee skin in which he swathed
himself as e climbed the classic steps
to the ring was a pleasant change
from the kimonas, the red capes, the
leopard-skins and the plain old bath—
robes of some of the others who trod
those steps before him.
“A sort of latter-day Ja et Singh,”
someone reminisced Wistfu 1y as dark
and stocky Nikolai spread his massive
legs in a corner.
“Sort of the way Jaget would look
today,” the fan added, a little rue—
fully now, as Nikolai took away the
sheep skin to reveal a Himalayan-
Nikolai made it plain that he didn’t
speak the language. The crowd could
see .this from the gesticulations.
Veteran second Len Drew took a
back seat while a New Zealand-
domiciled Pole came to the corner be-
tween rounds to discuss the turns of
the combat with Nikolai in neutral
Nikolai was understood least of all
by the referee, and by his do-good
opponent in this openin bout, Steve
Rickard, billed With a ack of con-
viction as New Zealand champion.
But the Bulgarian had something to
show beside the sheep-skin drape.
Whenever his op orient applied
pressure that was-su cientto crack
an egg—shell,.ma551ve Nikolai emitted
a groan that was almost a perfect
impersonation of the fog horn on
Wellington Heads. The crowd under-
His ﬁrst bout was short—lived.
Nikolai conceded a fall to feather-
duster drop-kicks, hurled his opponent
into the_ rin corner a couple of
times, grippe him in the hug that
bears are supposed to use, and bore
him to the. mat. It was a solemn
sort of business.
The referee patted a count of three
and gave Nikolai the fall. When
Master Rickard declined to come out
for another round, the ofﬁcial made
it a big night for crime by raising
the villain’s arm. -
Later, a local Bulgarian provided
a 'verbal bridge for me to converse
With "The Hangman," who snilplped
open a brief case initialled “ .Z.”
(for Nikolai Zigulinoff), trotted out a
12-page book on himself, exquisitely
written in French .(separate edition
in English) and illustrated. by a
French artist with line draWings.
It traced the story of Nikolai, from
his birth in the sheep town of Ter-
nova, in the Bulgarian highlands, to
the starry-eyed day he got the mes-
sage from Bulgarian wrestling hero
and world traveller Dan Koloff that
there’s more offering in life than the
Bulgarian hills and the ﬂocks of sheep.
.But on the title page Nikolai called
himself f‘The Bulgarian Shepherd,”
and by his noddings and gruntings he
made it clear that in his heart this
was preferable to “The Gorilla,” “The
Abominable Snowman," or any of the
other public images.
The book cleared up a few points.
The dressing-gown skin, for instance,
wasn’t any old skin at all. As a.
young shepherd Nikolai had a ram
that won all the prizes for ﬁghting.
That ram won all his bouts, right
to the end; but after a ﬁnal encounter
against shocking odds the ram
nuzzled up to its masterand died on
his bosom. His hide is the one cover-
ing Nikolai as he pads to the ring.
There was also some folk lore from
the mountains. A thrilling_tale of a
great stone called the “DeVil’s Rock,"
which lured travellers to their deaths
and was suspected of being respon-
1siblde for a drought which assailed the
After a community prayer_meet-
ing the massive young_Nikolai went
to the rock, wrapped his arms round
it, ﬂexed his great legs for leverage—
and sent the bad-luck omen tilting
and then crashing down the hillSide.
The rain which followed is remember-
eddto this day. Well, that’s what it
53.1 . . . .
Nikolai was proud of the book. But
it left some gaps. Through the inter-
Breter he passed back the word that
e was not married. Had he ever
considered this means of subduing a
raucous female fan_?——had he ever
come close to marrying?
For the- ﬁrst time in the interview,
“The Hangman" laughed. The inter-
preter passed‘on the reply: “He leaves
it to you—different towns,_ different
women, you know how it is.”
(Page 95, please)