On This Day: Ken Buchanan dethrones world lightweight champion Ismael Laguna in Puerto Rico

The night Buchanan claimed the world title on foreign soil was historic for British boxing, writes Nathan Fogg
  1. THE build-up to the fight – set for September 26 1970 – was marred with political controversy as Laguna was stripped of his WBC lightweight title for failing to defend against their number one contender Mando Ramos. As WBC members, the BBBofC also refused to sanction the fight as a world title bout. Instead, Buchanan fought for the WBA and NYSAC commission titles, neither of which was held in the same distinguished stock as the WBC. It meant that following the win, Buchanan was still not recognised as a world champion in his own controlling body.
  2. LAGUNA was guaranteed to make £25,000 for the fight, whilst the travelling challenger made considerably less at £5,200.
  3. LAGUNA was the 5-2 betting favourite, a preview in Boxing News predicted him to outclass Buchanan with his accuracy, quickness and ability to avoid taking damage.
  4. THE fight took place outdoors at San Juan’s Hiram Bithorn stadium, in Puerto Rico, in sweltering heat that was expected to be a large problem for the Scot. Facing temperatures close to 100 degrees, his corner man and father Thomas Buchanan held a parasol over him to keep him in the shade, whilst also squirting sunscreen down his back.
  5. IN fact, Laguna seemed to be the one to tire more noticeably in the final stages. After increasing the tempo and taking the middle rounds behind a persistent jab – opening two cuts over Buchanan’s eyes- it was the challenger who went on to take over in the championship rounds.
  6. AFTER being hurt in the twelfth as the two traded heavy blows on the ropes, Buchanan took control. Speaking after the fight Buchanan said, “I hit him hard enough several times to put him away, but I just couldn’t finish the job…It was my left jab with the right hand coming over that won it for me. Those sneak right leads I hit him with helped.”
  7. THE small 3,346 crowd were initially behind their Latino fighter, but by the end they were cheering every punch from Buchanan in his bid to grab the upset.
  8. IN the end Buchanan walked away with the split decision. Judges Jose Soto and Pito Lopes scored the bout in his favour at 144-142 and 145-144 respectively, whilst referee Waldermar Schmidt gave Laguna a 145-144 lead. No scorecard could be heavily disputed in what was widely recognised as a close, competitive fight.
  9. EXPECTING a hero’s return as the first British fighter to bring a world title back from abroad since Ted ‘Kid’ Lewis in 1915, Buchanan – more renowned in New York than back home – was met only by his family, with no reporters or jubilant crowd in sight.
  10. THE rematch was scheduled almost exactly a year later. Buchanan again won points, this time by way of unanimous decision, in another entertaining 15-round match up. The loss would be Laguna’s last act in a boxing ring; Buchanan had more big fights to come, continuing to fight for British, European and world titles.

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