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17 October 2014

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Boxing

Ken Buchanan wins world lightweight title 1970

Ken Buchanan

© SCRAN

Boxing is the harshest of sports in more ways than the physical pounding in the ring. There are no intermediate stages between winning and losing. Scotland's Ken Buchanan should have been remembered as a winner for his world lightweight title, but the fight he plays over again and again in his own mind is his defeat to Roberto Duran over 30 years ago, in very dubious circumstances.

Despite the patriotism of the boxer who wore tartan shorts and was piped into the ring to the tune of Scotland the Brave, he was more appreciated across the Atlantic where he won the American Boxing Writers' Association's Fighter of the Year in 1970, beating both Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. The southpaw is also the only living British fighter to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

In fact he never fought a professional fight in his home town of Edinburgh, after an abortive attempt to fight in Edinburgh's biggest indoor stadium, Murrayfield ice rink, was rejected. It must have been difficult for the boxer, for whom home and family were important elements of his make-up, to never go into a ring with his home crowd cheering him on.

Ken with Lonsdale belt

© SCRAN

Murrayfield's loss was Madison Square Garden's gain as Buchanan topped the bill at this most prestigious boxing venue in New York seven times, a record for a European boxer.

Born in 1945 and brought up in Northfield near Portobello, Buchanan joined an Edinburgh boxing club, the Sparta Club as an eight-and-a-half year old, having to lie that he was nine, after seeing the Joe Louis film 'the Brown Bomber'. After a successful amateur career, he turned professional in 1965 and on winning 23 consecutive bouts he knocked out Maurice Cullen in 1968 to become British Lightweight Champion.

He continued to progress, the only hiccup being losing on points to Miguel Velazquez in Madrid for the European lightweight title - a result Buchanan puts down to the judges favouring their own boxer. Despite this setback, the gifted boxer was given a shot at the world title in 1970 against Ismael Laguna in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ironically the lean Scot was chosen by the promoters as a warm-up before Laguna took on up-and-coming challenger Roberto Duran.

For Buchanan, the incredible 120 degree heat of a Puerto Rican afternoon was as much a problem as his talented opponent. Laguna was first out into the open-air ring and claimed the shaded corner. Buchanan's father and right-hand man Tommy had to claim a parasol from one of the spectators to offer his son some protection from the sun.

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