BOXING champion Ken Buchanan has paid tribute to his “outstanding and special” friend Muhammad Ali following the legendary fighter’s death.
The Edinburgh icon – who shared a bill with Ali three times in his decades-long career – said the world would always remember the Kentucky-born legend as one of the greatest boxers of all time.
Speaking to the Evening News, he said: “He was a friend and a lovely guy and a great world champion. He was really special. He was quite quiet at times, but he was really funny and you could have a laugh with him.
“He would put on an exciting fight – bobbing and weaving and jabbing. He was outstanding. I was really saddened to hear of his death.”
Buchanan, regarded by many as the greatest British lightweight boxer in history, shared a dressing room with Ali at Madison Square Garden in New York in December 1970.
He would put on an exciting fight – bobbing and weaving and jabbing. He was outstanding. I was really saddened to hear of his death.Ken Buchanan
The fearless Scot told how he playfully threatened the three-time world heavyweight champion for invading his personal space.
Asked if Ali could share his dressing room, Buchanan – who had recently won the WBA lightweight title – agreed but drew a line in chalk down the middle of the room to separate their two sides.
He warned Ali that if he crossed the line, he would “get some of this”, referring to his fist. The whole room suddenly went silent – before the two boxers burst out laughing.
Buchanan, 70, praised his friend’s crowd-pleasing style but raised fears the world-class fighter had simply taken “too many punches” during his famous Rumble in the Jungle bout with George Foreman in 1974.
Ali died on Friday at the age of 74 following “septic shock due to unspecified natural causes”. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984.
More than two decades after their New York meeting, Ali and Buchanan were reunited at an Edinburgh book signing in 1993.
By that point, the extent of Ali’s illness was all too apparent, and the legendary boxer had to be helped to walk through the Waterstone’s store at the west end of Princes Street as hundreds of fans queued to meet him.
A huge funeral procession will be held this coming Friday in his home town of Louisville, Kentucky.
Commentators from across the world have remarked that Ali will be remembered not just as a phenomenal fighter but also as a man of deep religious and political convictions.
His family said Friday’s event would “reflect his devotion to people of all races, religions and backgrounds”.
The main service, to be held at 2pm local time at the 20,000-capacity KFC Yum Center, will be interfaith but in the Muslim tradition, led by an imam. Ali – born Cassius Marcellus Clay in 1942 – took part in 61 fights during a 21-year professional career.