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From the Archive: Ken Buchanan vs Jim Watt

It’s been 40 years since two of Scotland’s greatest boxers, Ken Buchanan and Jim Watt, fought for the British lightweight title in Glasgow. To celebrate we’re taking a look back at the historic fight and the careers of its Scots fighters.

Jim Watt and Ken Buchanan exchange punches
Jim Watt and Ken Buchanan exchange punches

Watt and Buchanan were two of the world’s best boxers and their meeting in Glasgow was a much-anticipated affair.

Buchanan, who was famous for wearing tartan shorts during his bouts, became British Lightweight Champion in 1968 after knocking out the then title holder Maurice Cullen.

He won the world lightweight boxing title in 1970 after beating Ismael Laguna in Puerto Rico. The achievement made him the first British fighter to win the title since Freddie Welsh in 1917.

Buchanan was awarded the American Boxing Writers’ Association’s Fighter of the Year title in 1970, beating both Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and became the only living British boxer to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2000.

The Scots fighter, who turned pro in 1965, defended his title successfully twice in 1971. However, he famously lost it in a controversial 13 round bout against Roberto Duran in Madison Square Garden, New York, in 1972. During the bout, Buchanan felt he was ahead on points, however, he claims he lost his title after he was punched below the belt and the referee decided he could not continue.

Buchanan said after the fight: “That one late blow went a long way to destroying my career.”

In 1973, he faced Watt in a gruelling 15 round battle in Glasgow to reclaim his British lightweight title.

Watt won the British lightweight title by stopping Tony Riley in May 1972 and beat South African boxer Andreas Steyn in his own backyard in the same year.

He went on to confound commentators by managing to go 15 rounds with Buchanan in defence of his lightweight title. It was one of only three bouts Buchanan fought in Scotland.

Despite battling valiantly, Watt was beaten by Buchanan, who won the Lonsdale belt outright. However, his performance in the historic bout made him many new friends, including Buchanan, who said the boxer had made him toil hard for the 15 round points victory.

After the fight, Watt said: “Ken probably doesn’t have the adulation he deserves. He had a wonderful career with world class achievements, but everything was done elsewhere.”

Watt, who was born in Bridgeton in 1948 and attended James Murray’s Cardowan amateur boxing club in Maryhill, knocked out future British, European and WBC world welterweight champion, John H Stracey, in one round in 1968 to claim the British Amateur Boxing Association title and had turned down the chance to fight for Great Britain at the 1968 Mexico Olympics.

Following the fight, Watt beat Alfredo Pitalua in the 12th round at Kelvin Hall in April 1979 to win the world title. He went on to become world champion from 1979 to 1981, defending his title four times, a record for a Scots boxer. His victory was the launch pad for an early 1980s renaissance in Scottish boxing.

Watt, who was the only Scot to win a title in Spain after beating Perico Fernandez in February 1981, lost his crown to Nicaraguan Alexis Arguello in June 1981 at Wembley Arena.

Buchanan won 62 of his 70 professional fights. He became inactive between 1976 and 1978 and fought sporadically until retiring in 1983. A film about his career called The Boxer from Somewhere Else was released in 2012.

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