Painting of Edinburgh boxer Ken Buchanan's legendary 1970 title fight gifted to his local pub

A new painting of Edinburgh boxing hero Ken Buchanan’s legendary fight with Ismael Laguna in 1970 has been presented to his local pub, Central Bar in Leith.

Saturday, 19th October 2019, 8:45 am
Left to right: Ian Fleming, Central Bar Manager, Neil O'Donnell, who commissioned the painting, Ken Buchanan, and lifelong friend Jim Munro.

The picture, a close-up of Buchanan and Laguna facing up to each other, will sit in pride of place above the till.

It was painted by amateur artist David Walker, a joiner by trade, who was commissioned by a mutual friend of Buchanan.

The Central Bar, at the Foot of the Walk, was once part of Leith Central Station, which closed after the Second World War.

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The fight between Ken Buchanan and Ismael Laguna in 1970.

Believed to date back to 1890, the pub was immortalised in Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting as one of hard-man Begbie’s favourite drinking holes.

Buchanan is well-known in the area, and is often approached by tourists, locals and ambitious young boxers hoping to pick up tips.

Buchanan has clear memories of the 15-round bout with Panama’s Laguna which won him the WBA Lightweight Championship belt.

He was bolstered by the date of the fight - September 26, as “two and six is eight, and eight is my lucky number.”

But not many fancied the Northfield boxer’s chances in almost 50 degrees celsius in Puerto Rico.

“I was sweating just sitting in my dressing room, you didn’t need to warm up. We’ve never had that kind of heat here,” he said.

Buchanan had a great respect for his opponent.

“Ismael Laguna was a big figure, he was undefeated when I fought him.

“He trained really well, he trained hard. He won the title and he defended a couple of times.”

But despite seeing off such an impressive opponent, Buchanan received a lukewarm reaction at home.

“We flew to England, and then to Scotland, and we were saying that there was going to be a big crowd at Edinburgh airport.

“And then there was my wife, and my son, who had just been born.

“And I thought, ‘why is there nobody here? There wee a couple of [journalists] but I think they had been around anyway, just waiting for anyone to turn up. There were only half a dozen people there.”

But the second time Buchanan faced Laguna, to defend the same title in New York in 1971, he returned to a very different scene in Edinburgh, and was paraded as a hero through the city on an open-topped bus.

“The place was mobbed. It was absolutely heaving,” he said.

Despite some hard times in later life, the 74-year-old is justly proud of his life’s achievement.

“There’s not another man in Edinburgh, dead or alive, who can say ‘I’ve done what he’s done, and I’ve got the same amount of belts as he’s got’,” he said.

“They haven’t, there’s no Scottish boxer, or no British boxer, who’s got the same amount of belts as I have.”