Taylor paying 'tribute' to late Buchanan after date with Lopez forced him to miss Scottish great's funeral

Josh Taylor is fighting to honour the memory of the great Ken Buchanan when on Saturday he fights Teofimo Lopez in New York. 

The WBO super lightweight champion, 32, fights Brooklyn’s Lopez at the theatre at Madison Square Garden, the venue the late Buchanan so memorably graced during his prime.

Buchanan died aged 77 in April, having established himself as one of Britain’s finest ever fighters during a career in which he became the undisputed champion at 135lbs. His reign as champion was ended at The Garden by none other than the great Roberto Duran – an evening he discussed with his fellow Scot Taylor as a consequence of the friendship they forged – and as Taylor follows in his footsteps it is his late friend and one-time mentor he will have in mind.

Taylor’s preparations to fight Lopez also meant that he was unable to attend Buchanan’s funeral, contributing to his desire to ultimately pay tribute to him on Saturday night. 

“My fight kit is similar; I attribute it to his style,” Taylor said. “The way he had it when he fought here as well; my family tartan; he wore his family tartan; the white name band. That was a tribute to Ken. 

“He’s one of my heroes; one of my role models growing up, when I was coming through. This is a tribute to him, out of respect, because I couldn’t make his funeral a few weeks back because I was in training camp.

“He had most of his big fights here – four or five big fights. He’s got connections to my hometown, Prestonpans; my first coach was one of his sons, Raymond Fraser Buchanan. We spent a lot of time together, and I got to know Ken when I moved to Lochend Amateur Boxing Club. 

“I was 17, 18 years old when I first properly met Ken. I was in there working the bags, and Ken come in. I’d seen video footage of him fighting but never met him before. He come up to me and starting giving me wee bits of advice.

“He [also] came to LA with us. When we went over there I realised how well respected he was, and how celebrated he was. We went to the Wild Card to train for a couple of weeks, and he was treated like a god. He was so well respected and well liked.”

The great Muhammad Ali – whose date with Joe Frazier in the Fight of the Century remains the most memorable The Garden has ever staged – fought Oscar Bonavena at the same venue on the undercard of Buchanan-Donato Paduano. 

That Ali asked to share Buchanan’s changing room was not only one of Buchanan’s favourites stories but one of those Taylor most relished, and to the extent that it is that sense of history he has in mind.

“He told me the story about six times but he tells it with such enthusiasm and like it was yesterday,” said Taylor, seven years Lopez’s senior. “The attention to detail that he puts in – he can remember how the changing room was and what music was on, and playing in the arena. 

“He was such a funny guy. ‘Big Muhammad Ali came in and his coach was asking, “We’ve not got a changing room – can we use your changing room?” Aye, if you want. Wait a minute, big man.’ 

“He got a bit of chalk, drew a line halfway across the room and said, ‘This is your side and this is my side; don’t be coming over here’, and they had a good laugh after the fight and good jokes and spent the night together. These stories are amazing. Pieces of history that are fantastic.

“He always said to me that he could still feel that punch to the bollocks [from Duran, in 1972], to this day. He said he still used to get a bit of pain down there. Back in those days the cups weren’t how they’re made today. They’re basically just a sock down there; a little bit of padding. He said that he was in severe pain for months after.”