When Ken Buchanan met Muhammad Ali, a fist was raised – Steve Cardownie
It was great to see that a statue of Ken Buchanan was unveiled at the weekend, which should prove to be a fitting tribute to someone who many believe is, pound for pound, the greatest boxer that ever lived.
I had the privilege of meeting Ken on several occasions and was always struck by how humble he was.
I remember one such occasion a few years ago. A friend of mine, local businessman Willie Garriock, told me that he had successfully bid for Ken’s Championship belts that had gone to auction and that they were stored in his attic. Willie readily agreed to my request that he loan them to the City Council so they could go on public display at the Edinburgh Museum on the Royal Mile.
Suitably encased and sympathetically lit, along with a screen showing highlights of some of Ken’s fights, the display was officially declared open by the very proud but bashful pugilist.
After the official niceties were over, we retired to the Tolbooth Tavern across the road for a different kind of refreshment.
One of the regulars immediately recognised Ken, who was wearing his well-known Buchanan tartan tie, and said to him that he never thought that he would get the opportunity to meet one of his “heroes” and thanked Ken profusely for his contribution to sport.
Ken actually flushed as he politely turned down the patron’s offer of a drink and quietly thanked him for taking the time to come over and talking to him, saying that such small gestures meant a lot to him. Such is his demeanour.
However, Ken did tell the story that he once shared a dressing room with Muhammad Ali who was on the undercard. Ali walked into the dressing room to find that Ken had drawn a white line across the floor, telling Ali what side was his and that if he crossed over the line he “was getting that” as Ken raised a clenched fist. Both burst out laughing and soon became firm friends.
It is no surprise that Ken said at the statue’s unveiling: “It’s amazing because I retired 40 years ago, so to see all the people – hundreds, maybe a thousand – come out to see it… I’ll greet in a minute.”
As I said, such is his demeanour.