Boxing manager and mentor to Ken Buchanan;
Born: August 27, 1914; Died: July 8, 2012.
Tommy Buchanan, who has died aged 98, was that rare thing – a father who mentored his boxing son to the great benefit of his career.
It is common currency among boxing aficionados worldwide that a father who takes a leading role in his son's ring amateur or pro career can have a disastrously negative effect.
Scottish boxing legend and ex-world lightweight champion Ken Buchanan always emphatically rejected that this claim applied in any way to his own father, Tommy.
On the contrary, at the conclusion of his autobiography of 2000, The Tartan Legend, Ken – who was also former British and European lightweight champion – claimed his Da had been the sine qua non of the career that brought him an MBE; induction into the American Boxing Hall of Fame; and led to him being the only British world champion to be awarded the prestigious Edward J Neill trophy for Outstanding Boxing Excellence by America's top boxing newspaper scribes in the 1970s.
Unsurprisingly boxing was in the young Tommy's genes as his cousin, Leith-based Mungo Bird, was a useful professional boxer in the 1930s – boxing in the long vanished Stewart's Boxing Booth in Jane Street at the foot of Leith Walk.
Regularly watching Bird trade ring leather in the boxing booth inspired the young Tommy to try his own hand at amateur fisticuffs in the Lonsdale amateur boxing club situated further up Leith Walk at Shrubhill. A freak accident to his wrist precluded him from further serious competition, although he continued to watch boxing and boxers closely as a fan of the sport.
In the meantime, he married Cathy, while working as a white-collar health board worker, and they had two sons Alan and Kenny – both becoming champion boxers, as amateurs and pros.
His first significant and benevolent intervention in Ken's illustrious career came in 1953 when he took him to see the Joe Louis Story at a Leith cinema. This bio-pic of the fabled American world heavyweight champion fired up the young future world title holder so much that eventually Tommy enrolled Ken in the Edinburgh Sparta amateur boxing club in the capital's McDonald Road. The club was already home to future champions and legendary coaches Bobby Neill and Bobby Horne. Horne later played key instructional roles in the progression of Ken's mastery of boxing skills and techniques in the 1960s.
Both parents played key ringside roles in their son's steady climb to outstanding boxing renown in the 1950s and 1960s when he won youth and senior amateur championships at Scottish British and international level. He began garnering rave reviews for his outstanding technical boxing brilliance at international level in venues such as the Moscow-based 1963 European amateur championships.
Tommy was alert to sharp practice in the sport. Aware that many amateur coaches claimed their lightweight charges were only featherweights like his son, Buchanan senior carried a set of scales in the boot of his car to boxing tournaments to put the opposing coaches weight claims to the test and prevent Ken fighting under unfair weight disadvantages.
Similarly, when former Sparta club boxer Bobby Neill offered to manage Ken it was Tommy who vetoed his suggestion that his son would have to abandon the sublime stick-and-move, counter-punching style that ultimately underwrote all the title successes he would subsequently achieve.
Instead Ken signed with Welsh coach and manager Eddie Thomas but Tommy became critical of Thomas as a manager, eventually assuming the role himself.
His most decisive beneficial intervention on his son's behalf was when Ken won the world lightweight title for the first time in 125-degree heat in San Juan, Peurto Rico, in 1970, by outscoring defending Panamanian champion, Ismael Laguna.
Before the historic win that made Ken the first and last Scottish lightweight boxer to win a world lightweight title abroad, Tommy was tipped off that Laguna's American manager was poised to ask for two of his own ringside judges.
To counter this, Tommy appealed directly to the Puerto Rican boxing chief that this might suggest her own Puerto Rican officials weren't good enough to officiate. As a result three neutral judges were appointed in preference to those originally proposed by Laguna's American manager. Neutral officials awarded Scottish challenger Ken the title.
Even when the glory days for his son had long gone and Buchanan father and son had to swap the luxury air flights for a humble London-Edinburgh intercity bus coach to get to a small purse bout, Tommy was there to back Ken through thick and thin. He is pictured with Ken, second from right.
A lifelong Hibernian FC season ticket-holder and a keen golfer, Tommy played golf in his late 80s near his adopted Musselburgh home with ex-champion son Ken. He was also a brilliant raconteur, as those privileged to enjoy his company would testify.
He was predeceased by wife Cathy and is survived by Ken, Alan and several grandchildren.
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