In sad news, it has been reported how former world lightweight champion Ken Buchanan has passed away, this at age 77. The Scottish hero had been battling dementia and he is said to have passed away “peacefully in his sleep.” It was almost a year ago to the day that Buchanan’s son first revealed that his father was fighting dementia.
Buchanan, a true boxing master, is the first ever unified world champion boxer from Scotland. A true technician in the ring, Buchanan is best known for his losing fight, his very controversial fight, with Roberto Duran.
Buchanan won the WBA version of the 135 pound championship in 1970 when he defeated Panama’s Ismael Laguna, the fight taking place in Puerto Rico. Then, in Los Angeles the following year, Buchanan defeated Ruben Navarro to win the WBC crown. Buchanan topped the bill at the legendary Madison Square Garden no less than six times and his skills, courage and brilliance were hugely appreciated on both sides of the Atlantic.
It is, though, that epic with Duran that fans recall most vividly. Defending his WBA and Ring Magazine titles against a 21 year old Duran in New York, Buchanan was stopped in the 13th round when, at the very end of the session, the two throwing punches after the bell had sounded, Buchanan went down, clearly in agony as he clutched his groin. Buchanan’s trainer, Gil Clancy, said Duran had hit his fighter with a knee to the groin. However, referee Johnny LoBianco awarded the fight to Duran, stating how the challenger had hit the defending champion with a body shot that landed “in the abdomen, not any lower.”
For years, decades even, fans of both great fighters have argued over what happened. It is hard to see clearly, what with the angle the camera was at during the crucial period of time when all hell broke loose. For quite some time, a return fight was demanded, and ordered. Yet Duran, over the years 1972 and 1974, though he was ordered by the New York State Athletic Commission to fight Buchanan in a rematch, never did agree to the fight. Buchanan fought on for almost ten years after the Duran defeat, with the former champ picking up excellent wins over the likes of Carlos Ortiz, Jim Watt (in a British title fight), Antonio Puddu and Leonard Tavarez (both European title fights). Buchanan lost to Guts Ishimatsu in a failed attempt to regain the WBC lightweight title, Ken losing a 15 round decision in 1975.
Buchanan retired in 1982, this after losing a decision to George Feeney in an eight rounder. Buchanan’s final ring record reads 61-8(27). Only Duran stopped him.
Almost certainly the greatest boxer to come out of Scotland, Buchanan was a huge star, this during a golden era.
Our condolences go out to Ken’s family and friends at this time.