AFTER my successful blogs from the last two weeks educating you all about the all-time greatest fighter, this week it’s the turn of Britain’s all-time greatest ever fighter. I believe that man to be Scottish legend, Ken Buchanan.
As I said last week, it’s not about yesterday’s fighters beating today’s, or vice-versa, it’s about what they did in their era against the best that were around and Ken – I believe – outshone everyone.
I considered many greats including John Conteh, Randolph Turpin, Ted Kid Lewis, Jack Kid Berg, Carl Froch, Joe Calzaghe, Howard Winstone, Jimmy Wilde and even Lennox Lewis, but none measured up to Buchanan as my all-time greatest British fighter.
I had the pleasure of fighting on the same bill as Ken in 1969 (I say fighting, my opponent was fighting, I was just target practice). Ken was 23-0 by the time he fought for the British lightweight title against Maurice Cullen. Buchanan won via knockout in the 11th round at the National Sporting Club in Mayfair in front of a men-only crowd who were only allowed to cheer during the break between rounds.
He carried on beating world ranked fighters, like Angel Garcia, but tasted his first defeat when losing a 15-round decision in Madrid to Miguel Velazquez, who went on to claim the light-welterweight world title. He beat Velasquez in a rematch, defeated Chris Fernandez and defended his British title against Brian Hudson.
In the same year he was again on his travels, this time to Puerto Rico, to challenge the legendary Panamanian Ismael Laguna for the WBA lightweight title, whom he beat by decision over 15 rounds in searing heat. The WBA was not recognised at the time by the British Boxing Board of Control and he was unable to defend his title at home. In the meantime he decisioned the world ranked No.1 Denato Paduano over 10 rounds at Madison Square Garden, and in February the following year he beat Rubén Navarro in Los Angeles for the WBC title, became the undisputed lightweight champion of the world and was then allowed to defend in Britain. There he knocked out Carlos Hernandez, the former light-welterweight world champion, before returning to Madison Square Garden to again unanimously decision Ismael Laguna. Two fights (and wins) later, he went back to New York to defend his title against the unbeaten Roberto Duran. The legendary Panamanian won via controversial, ball-busting, stoppage but would always name Buchanan as his toughest opponent – praise indeed.
The Scot fought the best in the world, in places like Puerto Rico, Panama, South Africa, Japan, Canada, Los Angeles, and all over Europe, fighting in five different continents. He fought at Madison Square Garden on five occasions, once topping the bill with Muhammad Ali as chief-support. He was voted the best European fighter to ever fight in the USA. He was the only British fighter ever to win the American Boxing Writers Fighter of the Year – beating the likes of Ali and Frazier that year. He was also inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, voted the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, and was awarded the MBE by her Majesty the Queen.