Boxing

Seconds Out: Charlie Nash relives magic memories of Ken Buchanan clash

Derry's Charlie Nash with his great friend and trainer Tommy Donnelly after winning back the European lightweight belt against Francisco Leon in Dublin
Denis O'Hara

CHARLIE Nash, the former British and European lightweight champion from Derry, has expressed sincere sadness on hearing the distressing news that his boxing idol and old foe Ken Buchanan is suffering poor health.

Ring legend Buchanan from Edinburgh, and the ex-British, European and World lightweight champion, is currently in a care home.

"The news is so disappointing, terrible. I’m sad to hear Ken is not well. He was a great fighter, and my idol. He was the man I looked up to. He was the boxer I tried to model my style on, even though I was a southpaw," said Nash.

"I would watch tape recordings of his world title fights. Unfortunately we had to meet in the ring, and I beat Ken in a close contest."

On December 6, 1979, not only was the European lightweight belt on the line but also the tantalising prospect of a shot at world champion Jim Watt.

The 12-rounder was made by Danish promoter Mogens Palle, through Brighton-based matchmaker Paddy Byrne, and staged in the dull grey coloured indoor 4,500-seater, Brondby Hallen, on the fringes of Copenhagen's city centre.

It was the last chance saloon for Buchanan to secure another crack at winning the world lightweight crown. He felt he could overcome Nash to set up a showdown with fellow Scot Watt, over whom he already held a decision in a British title joust.

On the comeback trail – having retired when failing to beat Gus Ishimatso for the world title in 1975 in what was to prove Hall of Famer Ken's fourth and final world championship outing - he was helped by Halle's associate Byrne gain test-run contests in Denmark before tackling Nash.

Born on June 28, 1945 the former WBA champion, rated by many Scots as their best-ever professional boxer, also took part in 12 other varied championship tests, mostly EBU affairs.

Olympian Nash, managed throughout most of his 30 paid fight career by London's Jack Solomons, participated in one world title match and 10 other championship contests, including a British eliminator.

"It was a surprise to me that I had to go to Copenhagen to box Ken, who fought all over the globe. I boxed mostly at home, in the Templemore Sports Complex, Derry, and also in Glasgow, London, Dublin, Birmingham. During my amateur career I boxed for Ireland teams in many countries on the continent, including at the Munich Olympics..

"It was, however, the first time in a long while to be boxing so far away from home, my first on the continent as a pro. I was disappointed at the time that I had to fight Ken to progress to a shot at the world championship.

"It was something I had to do; nothing I could do about it. Mogens Palle did a deal with Ken to set up the fight, with the European belt at stake. It was a tight fight."

I reported on the contest along with Dublin boxing journalists Tom' The Squire' Cryan and a young Martin Breheny. Before the show promoter Palle sent a black stretch limousine to bring overseas journalists, including London TV commentator Reg Gutteridge, to the sprawling venue.

The Nash-Buchanan 12-rounder was the chief supporting bout to Copenhagen-based Ugandan southpaw Ayub Kalule, who outscored Steve Gregory of Ohio over 15 rounds in a WBA super-welter championship contest.

The seven-bout show also featured a six-rounder super-welter points loss for Belfast's Gerry Young against local prospect Torben Andersen.

It was Nash's 21st bout and Buchanan's 63rd, with the three judges voting in favour of Charlie - two by 118-116 and the other, from referee Robert Desgair, 116-115.

Nash moved on to endure a controversial stoppage loss to Jim Watt in a WBC title fight in Glasgow's Kelvin Hall.

Buchanan had a couple more contests after the Nash setback but there would be no more world title battles and after losing to George Feeney in January 1982, when he retired for good.

Buchanan's Irish connection doesn't end in Denmark, as Belfast manager/promoter BJ Eastwood brought him over to help fine-tune his raw young featherweight prospect, Barry McGuigan.

During a 10-week on and off spell of coaching and sparring, many rounds were held in the Lisburn ABC before Eastwood opened his legendary gym in Castle Street.

Buchanan revealed then: "I believed I shaded the fight with Charlie Nash. He was a very good boxer, but I felt I landed the better punches.

“I know there is no point in crying over spilt milk but I was so keen to get a crack at Jim Watt’s world title, and felt that I could win it. It wasn't to be."

He welcomed the invitation to join the McGuigan training camp in Belfast, in 1981, after McGuigan surprisingly lost an eight round decision to Brighton's Peter Eubanks. The contest was promoted by Paddy Byrne, also matchmaker for Eastwood Promotions,

McGuigan seemed sure to take the verdict, as he repeatedly rocked Eubank, but there were two minute rounds and often the bell came to the rescue of Eubank. Still, though, referee Roland Dakin awarded the decision to the home fighter by half a point. It was 20-year-old McGuigan's third paid outing.

Before he met hard-hitting Belgian Jean-Marc Renard in the Ulster Hall that September, his most difficult test since leaving the amateur ranks, McGuigan was given some schooling by the legendary Buchanan.

"I enjoyed my time there, I felt very much at home in Belfast,” said the classy Scot.

“Going to help McGuigan's training was not a problem. Anyhow, I'm half-Irish as my mother, Kathleen McManus, was born there. My father Thomas came from Wick in Scotland.

"While I was in the Eastwood camp, working with trainer Eddie Shaw, I could see McGuigan had a very bright future but some things - a couple of raw bits - needed to be ironed out. We worked on the left hook to the body. Barry developed that left hook to the body."

On the Buchanan link-up, Eastwood added: "I brought Ken in and he was excellent; one smart guy. It was an expensive move, but well worth it.

“Buchanan was obviously at the end of his own ring career but he knew all the moves - on the right way to swerve, roll, sway. Buchanan was very clever."

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Boxing