Ken Buchanan was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 28 June 1945, to parents Tommy and Cathie. Both of them were very supportive of their son's sporting aspirations through his early life. However, it was Ken's aunt, Joan and Agnes, who initially encouraged the youngster's enthusiasm for boxing. In 1952. the pair were shopping for Christmas presents for Ken and his cousin, Robert Barr, when they saw a pair of boxing gloves and it occurred to them that the two boys often enjoyed some playful sparring together. So, at the age of seven, the young Buchanan received his first pair of boxing gloves.
It was another casual act, this time by father Tommy that sparked young Ken's interest in competitive boxing. One Saturday, when the family had finished shopping, Tommy took his son to the cinema to see The Joe Louis Story and Ken decided he'd like to join a boxing club. Tommy agreed. And the eight-year-old joined one of Scotland's best clubs. The Sparta. Two nights a week, alongside 50 other youths, young Ken learned how to box and before long he had won his first medal – with a three-round points win in the boys' 49lb (three stone seven pound) division.
When he was 17, Buchanan won his first senior title, taking the East District bantamweight championship. Soon after that he reached the final of the Scottish Championships, but was outpointed. This earned him an international debut, where he scored a win against Switzerland, and a trip to the European championships in Russia, where an East German beat him in his first contest. The following year in 1965 Buchanan won the Scottish and ABA titles, and again he went to the European championships, where skeptics felt that politics had something to do with his controversial defeat by the reigning European and Olympic champion Stanislav Stepashkin of the USSR.
By now, it was time for the 20-year-old featherweight to think about those offers that had been coming in for him to turn professional. Eddie Thomas, who lived in Merthyr, Wales finally secured his signature for £ 500, even though other managers had offered more and most people expected Edinburgh's ex-British featherweight champ, Bobby Neill. To get the job, however, Thomas was already training British, European and future world feather champ Howard Winstone, and he clitched it by agreeing that Buchanan could continue to live in Edinburgh.
He started boxing professionally on September 20, 1965, beating Brian Tonks by a knockout in two rounds in London. He spent much of the early parts of his career fighting undistinguished opponents in England. His Scottish debut came in his 17th fight, when he outpointed John McMillan over 10 rounds on January 23, 1967. Prior to that, he had also beaten Ivan Whiter by a decision in 8 rounds.
Thomas curbed Buchanan's willingness to mix it in his contests, emphasizing the benefits of defensive techniques and ringcraft. In Thomas's opinion, the less punishment a fighter took, the longer his career lasted. However, right from the beginning, the Scot's relationship with his manager was very uneasy.
Buchanan relates how, after training, Thomas would tell him to urinate in his hands and nib it on his face to make his skin hard. Ex-heavyweight world champion Jack Dempsey used filthy salt water for the same purpose, but Buchanan's father criticized Thomas and told Ken not to do it, instructing him to nib petroleum jelly around his eyes instead, to keep the skin supple. Buchanan also grown irritated as Thomas spent more and more of his time with Winstone, deputizing assistants to train Buchanan.
The main reason for the problems that developed was due to the boxing set-up at the time. The influence of leading post-war promoter Jack Solomon was stating as Harry Levene, his latter-day rival. Team up with Mike Barrett, Jarvis Astaire and Mickey Duff to form a partnership which more or less controlled big-time boxing in Britain. These four promoted fights at the Albert Hall and Wembley's Empire Pool. But as Thomas's fighters were not favored by this partnership, a newcomer like Buchanan was unable to get a place in a major show.
But before long Buchanan ran his winning streak to 23 consecutive bouts before challenging Maurice Cullen on February 19,1968 for the British Lightweight title in London. The reigning champion was a stylish boxer who had won the title in April 1965 and successfullydefended four times before stepping into the ring against Buchanan at the Anglo-American Sporting Club, London, in February 1968. Buchanan, with an all-round ability that allowed Him to box with the best, but also fight and punch with both hands, got on top in the sixth round of what had begun as a hard fight. Buchanan got through to Cullen and put him down for counts of four and seven in the sixth. Cullen was in trouble again, and dropped for counts of eight and nine in the ninth. The champion staged a brave comeback in the 10th, but in the 11th round he was soon helpless in the face of another Buchanan onslaught, and a perfect left hook put him down for the fifth time. He staggered to his feet, hurt fractionally after the referee's count had arrived 10. Buchanan was the new British lightweight champion.
He continued his way up the world Lightweight rankings by defeating Leonard Tavarez, Angel Robinson Garcia and Whiter (in a rematch) among others. A contest was then scheduled for June 1969, in Nottingham, with Carlos Teo Cruz of the Dominican Republic, and billed as a final eliminator for the world title. Cruz had won the world title a year earlier from Carlos Ortiz, but had dropped it four months later to Mando Ramos. Buchanan was frustrated when Cruz withdrew before the fight (eight months later he died in a plane crash), and an angry Buchanan stopped the substitute, Jerry Graci in the first round.
It seemed to Buchanan that his chance of a world title light had gone. He was married, and had invested in a smart home in the expectation of a profitable boxing career, and he found himself down to his last few pounds in the bank. His stablemate, Howard Winstone, had by now won and lost his world title and Eddie Thomas was still on no better terms with the Duff-Barrett-Astaire group. With his manager 400 miles away, and seemingly uninterested, Buchanan was out in the cold as far as the big promotions were concerned and there looked to be little chance of him getting a British title defense.
In a state of depression, Buchanan now took a step that looked the British boxing world, and which he has regretted ever since; He sent his license and Lonsdale Belt back to the British Boxing Board of Control and, at the age of 24, announced his retirement. In the normal course of things, after 34 unbeaten protests and as the lightweight champion of Britain. The opportunities should have been infinite. Yet, so far as he could see. Buchanan was finished. He went back to carpentry, his trade as an amateur boxer, and claimed to be better off and happier, able to have a drink and not worry about his weight.
However, after his mother had passed away his father persuaded Ken to take boxing back up, and with this he went back into training. Then on 29th of January, 1970, he challenged future world Jr. Welterweight champion Miguel Velazquez in Madrid, for the European Lightweight title. Buchanan lost a 15 round decision to Velazquez, but neverless, he continued his ascent towards the number one spot in the rankings by beating Tavarez in a rematch, Chris Fernandez and Brian Hudson, the latter of what was beaten by a knockout in five in a Defense of the British Lightweight title.
On September of that year, Buchanan traveled to Puerto Rico, where he would meet Ismael Laguna, the world Lightweight Champion, on September 26. Many experts thought that San Juan's warm weather would affect Buchanan, but he upset those who thought that way and beat Laguna by a 15 round decision to become world's Lightweight champion. At that time, the WBA and the British Boxing Board of Commisioners (BBBC), were in the middle of a feud, and Buchanan was not allowed to fight in the United Kingdom. He had to resort to fighting overseas for a short period of time.
Buchanan became depressed by his welcome home in Edinburgh. Putting on a sombrero to meet the expected crowd, he found a reception committe of just six, and four of those were his wife Carol and son Mark, and his parents-in-law. Edinburgh, it seemed, still did not care about its outstanding world champion. However, 10 weeks after he had won the title. Buchanan finally discovered a place where he was appreciated.
In December 1970, Buchanan made his first appearance at Madison Square Garden, on the undercard of the Muhammad Ali – Oscar Bonavena fight. His opponent was Man unbeaten Canadian welterweight, Donato Paduano, who was almost a stone heavier at the weigh-in. Buchanan realized that he would have to use all his speed and skill to overcome this dangerous opponent. And he put on a brilliant boxing master class, emerging unmarked for a decisive points win. The fans gave him a rare standing ovation and he was a favorite at the Garden from then on
He finished 1970 beating Donato Panuato by a 10 round decision in a non-title bout. Americas Boxing Writers named Buchanan their 'Fighter of the Year' for 1970, ahead of the legendary Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier after what is regarded as one of the great title fights; The Fight of the cenury. Buchanan then began 1971 by going to Los Angeles, where he retained his title with a 15 round decision over Ruben Navarro. After that, he was allowed to fight in the United Kingdom again, and he returned there to beat former world champion Carlos Morocho Hernandez by a knockout in eight.
Then, he flew to New York to meet Laguna again, this time defending his world title. Buchanan retained the title with another decision over Laguna, and then he had a couple of non-title matters, one in London and one in South Africa. The South African fight against Andries Steyn inJohannesburg was a mismatch with his opponent's corner throwing in the towel in the third round.
He was beaten of the WBC title for failing to defend against Pedro Carrasco, but he remained the WBA world Lightweight champion. His next defense came on June 26 of 1972, against then undefeated Roberto Duran at the Madison Square Garden (MSG) in New York. This bout proved to be one of the most controversial in boxing history. During an exchange to end round 13, Duran landed a blow to the mid-section that might have stuck Buchanan in an illegal area of the body. Buchanan has always claimed that the blow was low, and replays, which have been shown countless times on TV, are inconclusive. Referee John LoBianco said, however, that he thought the blow was legal, and therefore, the bout, and the world championship, were given to Duran by a technical knockout in 13 rounds. Buchanan required hospitalization and surgery after the bout.
The disappointment did not affect Buchanan's winning ways elsewhere. In the reminder of 1972, and in 1973 and 1974, he won 13 contests without defeat, stopping ex-world champion Carlos Ortiz in 1972 and outpointing British lightweight champion Jim Watt in 1973 to regain the title. In 1974 he went to Cagliari, Sardinia. To take the European crown from Italy's Antonio Puddu. In the Santa Elia Stadium, Puddu was knocked out in the sixth round, and seven months later Frenchman Leonard Tavarez was stopped in the 14th at the Parc des Expositions in Paris.
In 1973, Buchanan started out by beating future world Lightweight champion Jim Watt by a decision in 15, to regain the British lightweight title. Soon, he embarked on another international tour that included more losses in the United States, several fights in Denmark, and one fight in Canada. He won each of those shots, leading towards a challenge of European Lightweight champion Antonio Puddu in Italy, and Buchanan added the European Lightweight championship belt to his shelf by defeating Puddu by a decision in 15 rounds. He retained the title by beat Tavarez for the third time, this time by a knockout in 14 at Paris, and then he traveled to Japan to fight for the world title again. This time, however, he was defeated by a decision in 15 rounds by the WBC's world champion, Ishimatsu 'Guts' Suzuki.
Buchanan re-grouped once again, and won in a defense of the European Lightweight title against Giancarlo Usai by a knockout in 12. But he retired from 1976 to 1978, leaving the European Lightweight title vacant.
When he returned to professional boxing in 1978, he won two straight bouts, but everything else started going back for him. Challenging Charlie Nash in Copenhagen, he lost by a decision in twelve. In 1980, he won two bouts in a row, but after that, he lost five bouts in a row, finally retiring for good after losing to George Feeney by a decision in eight on January 25 of 1982.
He retired with a record of 61 wins and 8 losses in 69 professional bouts, with 27 wins by knockout.
In 2000, he was elected to the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.