Ken Buchanan: New statue celebrating legendary boxer to be unveiled this weekend in Edinburgh
A statue of Edinburgh boxing legend Ken Buchanan will be unveiled this weekend, paying tribute to the former fighter who many recognise as the greatest pugilist to ever emerge from the UK.
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The presentation will begin at 12pm this Sunday (August 14) at Little King Street, near the John Lewis store at the top of Leith Walk.
The bronze sculpture was cast by local company, Powderhall Bronze, and was created by celebrated sculptor, Alan Herriot, whose previous work includes statues of Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert the Bruce and football legend Denis Law.
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The event comes after six years of fundraising by the Ken Buchanan MBE Foundation, a charity established to raise funds for the project in addition to supporting several children’s sporting initiatives.
The foundation hope that Little King Street will act as a temporary site before the statue is relocated to a permanent home at the redeveloped Picardy Place island at the top of Leith Walk.
The public event will also feature pipe music and see Scottish singer-songwriter Kevin Gore perform ‘Ken Buchanan, Edinburgh man’ – a song dedicated to the boxing great.
Council Leader Cammy Day, renowned sports writer Jim Black, and former world champion and ex Buchanan opponent, Jim Watt, will also be in attendance.
Owen Smith, who launched the foundation in 2016, said that all trustees involved hope the statue will be a fitting, cultural memorial to the 77-year-old's world class achievements.
Owen, a lifelong friend and former pupil of Buchanan who later became a Scottish welterweight champion said: “He used to be in my corner when I was an amateur – you’d won half the fight before you went in the ring when he got introduced to the crowd.
“That’s how it seemed anyway because everybody loved him. You’re opponent would think ‘jeez, this guy must be good if he kens him.’ ”
In recent years boxing royalty including Marvin Hagler, Barry Mcguigan and Josh Taylor have attended fundraising events to support the charity.
Owen added: “That’s what the foundation in Ken’s name does - people in the boxing fraternity want to help.”
The charity founder expressed that the celebratory event would not be possible without all the people who have supported the foundation, the hard work of trustee members and he extended his thanks to Edinburgh Council and Nick Peel and Alex McGinness of the St James Quarter.
Foundation trustee Jim Black said the statue was “long overdue”, adding the man from Leith was “not only one of the greatest Scottish boxer of all time but also one of the greatest Scottish sportsman of all time”.
He added: “I’ve been asked to say a few words on Sunday and it’ll be one of the proudest moments of my life and career.
“I’ve been around boxing for 50 years and when your heroes become your friends it’s very special so Sunday will be very emotional and a massive honour.
“There’s several reasons he’s recognised as the one of the greats – not least his god given talent and commitment but he was able to go across the world and win world titles away from home which, believe me, in boxing is a very difficult thing to do.
“To do that away from home added to the magnitude of the achievement I think.
“He defeated Jim Watt towards the end of his career which was no mean feat because Jim went onto become a very successful and accomplished world champion.”
Buchanan was born in Leith in 1945, where he took up boxing at the age of eight after persuading his dad to take him to Edinburgh's Sparta Club on McDonald Road.
After winning his first medal months later, he continued to hone his pugilistic skills in the amateur ranks, becoming the British ABA featherweight champion in 1965 - five months before making the switch to the paid ranks.
The Edinburgh fighter made his professional debut on September 20 1965 scoring a second round technical knockout over Brian Rocky Tonks.
Three years later, Buchanan would put on a dominant performance against Maurice Cullen to capture the British lightweight title in London 1968, knocking his man down four times on the way to an eleventh round KO finish.
After emerging victorious in his first 33 fights, the Leith legend would go on to claim the alluring WBA lightweight title in his 38th professional outing against Ismael Laguna - batting it out over 15 rounds under the sweltering Puerto Rican heat in 1970.
The following year, the International Hall of Fame fighter would continue to make noise in the boxing world, becoming the undisputed lightweight champion by claiming the WBC lightweight title from Ruben Navarro.
Many will remember Buchanan’s spirited 1972 contest against the dangerous Roberto Duran at Madison Square Garden - a fight that ended in controversial fashion, with the Scottish champion receiving a low blow after the bell on the round 13.
His 1973 fight with future world champion Jim Watt is regarded by many as one of the best boxing matches to take place on British soil with both men producing a barn burner for the ages.
Buchanan’s last fight came in January 1982, at the venue where it all began, at London’s National Sporting Club. Buchannan, retired with a record of 61 wins (27 by knockout) against eight losses.
Buchanan, received several prestigious accolades, including being voted fighter of the year by the American Boxing Writers’ Association in 1970 ahead of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frasier, and winning the British Sports Writers’ Sportsman of the Year award in 1971.
Ken was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2000 and was the recipient of the Edinburgh Award in 2018.