Tuesday, October 03, 2023  |


Born on this day: Ken Buchanan

Ken Buchanan, Scotland's first undisputed champion, shows off his Ring Magazine belt.
Fighters Network

He was a talented fighter with superb boxing skills, and he is still remembered for his courage in the ring, his Tartan shorts, and his reluctant passing the torch to an all-time great.

Ken Buchanan was born on June 28, 1945 in Edinburgh, Scotland. He started boxing professionally in 1965 with a second-round stoppage win in London and spent most of his early years fighting in England before returning to his homeland for a few fights.

He was unbeaten in 23 fights when he stopped Maurice Cullen in 1968 to claim the British lightweight title, his first belt, in London. Ten fights later he challenged for the continental title, and lost to Spain’s future world titlist Miguel Velazquez in Madrid on points.

Undeterred by his failure to win the European championship, Buchanan challenged for a world title three fights and nine months later, and achieved success in his first attempt when he traveled to Puerto Rico to defeat Panama’s Ismael Laguna by split decision, picking up the Ring magazine belt in the process.

His title reign would be short lived. He defended his belt against Ruben Navarro in Los Angeles and in a rematch against Laguna in New York one year later. But in that new victory he managed to inspire another young Panamanian challenger and to enrage him even further for defeating his hero once again.

Nine months later, in the same Madison Square Garden stage in which Buchanan had decisioned Laguna for the second time, he climbed through the ropes to meet one of the most fearsome foes he ever had. In a terrific fight with a very controversial ending, Buchanan lost his belt to future legend Roberto Duran on a stoppage loss in 13 rounds capped by what appears to be a knee in Buchanan’s groin right as the bell to end the round was ringing.

Even though Duran was winning the fight up to that point, and even though he rubricated that win with a historic six-year, 12-defense reign of terror on the 135-pound division, Buchanan never accepted that defeat and insisted that he could have turned the tide if not for that unsanctioned foul. Duran’s stern refusal to grant Buchanan an already signed rematch soured the Scottish great even further.

Buchanan continued his career fighting all over the world. He scored a win over former three-time world champion Carlos Ortiz by a knockout at Madison Square Garden only three months after losing to Duran, and four more fights later he reclaimed the British lightweight title with a win over Jim Watt. He finally grabbed the European title with a win over Leonard Tavarez in Paris in 1974 and defended it once, but failed in his only other attempt to win a world title when he dropped a unanimous decision against Japan’s Guts Ishimatsu in 1975.

After losing the European belt to Charlie Nash in 1979, Buchanan’s best years started to appear further and further back in the rearview mirror as years went by, and after going 2-5 in the last three years of his career he finally called it quits in 1982 with a final record of 61-8 with 27 knockouts.

Buchanan died on April 1, 2023, at the age of 77. He had been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in the year 2000.



Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.