Ken Buchanan: Statue of Scottish boxing legend unveiled on Edinburghs’s Leith Walk
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The man of the hour was Edinburgh’s Ken Buchanan, who is considered by many to be the greatest boxer to emerge from the UK, securing his place in boxing history by conquering the lightweight division in the early 1970s.
Buchanan, 77, who retired form the sport 40 years ago this year, was led by bag pipers as he arrived at the ceremony on Little King Street shortly before midday, where he was greeted by a euphoric crowd that came to join the Edinburgh hero for his special day.
The bronze statue, unveiled by former Edinburgh Lord Provosts, Frank Ross and Donald Wilson, comes after six years of fundraising by the Ken Buchanan MBE Foundation, who generated more than £47,000 to get the sculpture made.
Hundreds turned out to see the sporting icon outside the St James Quarter, and Edinburgh singer-songwriter Kevin Gore performed ‘Ken Buchanan, Edinburgh man’ – a song dedicated to the boxing great.
Speaking at the event, sports writer and foundation trustee, Jim Black said: “The word ‘legend’ is too often banded about these days to describe personalities unworthy of the description.
“But there can be no doubt whatsoever that the man we are honouring today is fully deserving of the accolade.
“Ken is indeed a true legend and one of the finest boxers, not only Scotland has produced but Britain has produced of all time - and a truly great sporting son of this city.
“But at last he takes his rightful place in the pantheon of Edinburgh most famous and revered.
“The Capital, I feel, will also benefit from having a new landmark and visitor attraction.”
Former world champion and ex Buchanan opponent, Jim Watt, also said a few words, joking to the rapturous crowd “do you think the statue will keep still long enough for me to hit it?” – referring to their thrilling 1973 contest.
Mr Watt said: “Kenny has had a great many special nights and days in his life and he’s having another one today, what’s happening here is awesome and fully deserved.”
He added: “When you spend 15 rounds with someone trying to knock each others teeth out, you form a special bond and a mutual respect.
“Kenny and I have that for each other, but we’re also the best of pals now and I like that better!”
Speaking to the Evening News, he said: “The highest accolade you can receive is when the people in your own city want to erect a statue to commemorate your career and your accomplishments – there’s not a higher compliment and Kenny certainly deserves that.”
Former Lord Provost, Frank Ross, who previously attended several fundraising events for the project, said: “One thing I witnessed at the various events that I was honoured to be invited to was the love and adoration that the boxing community generally have for Ken Buchanan.”
He added: “It was unbelievable to see the outpourings, not just the money that was changing hands, but the real feelings people had towards Ken.”
Nick Peel, Managing Director at St James Quarter said: "We're proud to be unveiling this statue of Ken Buchanan to celebrate his legacy and the impact he's left on Edinburgh as a sporting hero."
Mr Peel added: “Placing his statue at St James Quarter at the top of Leith Walk feels like a touching tribute to the area where he grew up and found his love for boxing."
Born in Edinburgh in 1945 and growing up in Northfield, Buchanan took up boxing at the age of eight, at Edinburgh's Sparta Club on MacDonald Road. There, he would hone his boxing skills and go onto become a decorated amateur, winning the ABA featherweight title in 1965 shortly before turning professional.
The years that followed saw the North Edinburgh legend travel the world with his trademark tartan shorts and fighting across five continents, capturing the British lightweight title from Maurice Cullen in 1968 before climbing to the higher echelons of the sport to claim world title honours in 1970.
Armed with an educated left jab and evasive lateral movement, complemented with his tenacity and high ring IQ, he would unify the division in 1971 by adding the WBC belt to his collection.
That same year Buchanan became the British Sports Writers’ Sportsman of the Year – a year after he was voted fighter of the year by the American Boxing Writers’ Association in 1970 ahead of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frasier.
In recognition of his sporting achievements he was awarded an MBE 1972.
In 2000, Ken was the first living British boxer to be inducted into the International Hall of Fame he was the recipient of the Edinburgh Award in 2018.