During a time when the lighter weights of boxing were on fire with a huge amount of Latino fighters, an unlikely undisputed Lightweight Champion came from Scotland; Ken Buchanan.
Ken Buchanan lost his titles in one of the most controversial fights to ever take place in the legendary arena Madison Square Garden, against an up and coming Panamanian fighter named Roberto Duran. The classy Edinburgh counterpuncher had some memorable matches in his time against Jim Watt, Ismael Laguna and our very own Charlie Nash. Although not as well-known as the likes of Jim Watt and Ricky Burns, it is fact Buchanan who was probably Scotland’s most successful fighter.
Buchanan won the British title while maintaining an unbeaten record, amassing a fantastic 33-0 record before challenging Miquel Velazquez for the European strap, unfortunately losing via a 15 round points decision. However this would prove to be a blessing in disguise as just four fights later he ripped the WBA Lightweight title from Laguna in sweltering heat in Puerto Rico. The elements didn’t suit the pasty Scot, in between rounds his coach was spraying sun cream all down his back, but that didn’t stop him. Although Laguna had twice been undisputed champion, with an impressive record and fighting at home, Ken showed his raw quality by battling against these factors to win the later rounds of the fight and clinch the victory. At the beginning of the fight the crowd were pro Laguna but come the end they were cheering the gutsy Buchanan. Buchanan would fight Laguna again in four fights time with the same result of a decision victory.
Two fights after the first Laguna win Buchanan wrestled the WBC title off Ruben Navarro to become undisputed Lightweight Champ, however it was short lived as a contractual dispute meant he had to give up the WBC strap shortly after. Then in 26th of June 1972 the infamous ‘Low Blow’ fight occurred with the animalistic Roberto Duran, a fight which will be remembered solely for that one incident rather that the fact it was a fantastic contest. For the first 6 or 7 rounds Duran battered Buchanan, however for the 9th, 10th, and 11th rounds Buchanan appeared to claw himself back into the contest. Duran fired back in the 12th against a clearly exhausted opponent. The 13th will forever be associated with one of the strangest and most unsavoury endings to a World Title contest; punches were thrown after the bell from both men but Buchanan hit the deck in agony, wincing in pain and holding his groin area. The referee stopped the contest, bizarrely awarding the victory to Duran, a decision which has puzzled Buchanan for the 40 or so years since. The Scot still suffers pain from the illegal blow and it’s thought he was never the same fighter after.
The Edinburgh man kept fighting until 1982 with fantastic domestic scraps with the likes of Nash and Watt but failed to win another World Title; losing a WBC shot in 1975. There were laughable rumours a few years ago that he was going to make a comeback, even though he was well into his 60’s! Even if he did attempt such a feat it is unlikely he would be given a boxing license. Regardless Ken Buchanan will go down as one of the all-time great Lightweights and Scottish boxing heroes, even with the incident that everyone will remember his career for. The tartan shorts wearing Scot should be idolised for being an exciting counter-puncher who fought the biggest and best fighters at a time when the Lightweight division was buzzing with talent.
Pundit Arena, James McDowell.