Boxing

Olympian Paddy Fitzsimons saddened by news of Scotland ring legend Ken Buchanan

Paddy Fitzsimons pictured with former super-middleweight world champion Darren Barker outside the Dockers club. Picture Matt Bohill..
Andy Watters

STOCKY Short Strand scrapper Paddy Fitzsimons, an Olympian and an Ulster and Irish senior amateur champion when he boxed out of the St Matthew's Club, has expressed sadness on reading of the distressing illness news of Scotland ring legend Ken Buchanan, writes Denis O'Hara.

Fitzsimons followed Charlie Nash's recent regret in the Irish News on hearing of Buchanan's plight, and also revealed he too met and defeated the former World lightweight champion.

"It is desperate news that Ken is seriously unwell, and in a care home. That is very sad. He became a brilliant professional at lightweight. Unlike Charlie (Nash) I met Ken Buchanan in an amateur contest. It was back in 1963.I was in the Ireland team as the Irish featherweight champion that year.

"The international was the annual Kuttner Shield, with Scotland having home advantage in the Kelvin Sports Centre.

Ken, of course, became an exceptional professional lightweight. Throughout his career he did not lose too many bouts. I'm proud to say I won against him, as did Charlie Nash. I took the three-rounds decision at featherweight.".

Fiery Fitzsimons produced an exceptional display against the classy Caledonian, sticking firmly to an aggressive game plan.

Standing 5'3" he was at a disadvantage in height and reach against Buchanan, so he went body snatching. It proved a hugely successful strategy.

"I remember the fight well. Ken was bit taller than me, and also had a longer left reach. I knew I had to get in close, which I did. I slipped under his left jab, and worked the body. In the final round I accidentally slipped to the canvas.On rising, the referee was the Irish representative, Sam Hays of the Belfast De LaSalle club. He helped me up, and whispered to me that I was well in front and to keep going the way I had been. It turned out he was right, and I was awarded the decision. I'm proud of that win.

"My second occasion to meet Ken was also at an amateur boxing show in Glasgow. This time, however, we were both outside the ropes. I was coach to a County Antrim team managed by my great St Matthew's club-mate, the late Harry Cunningham.

There were two special ringside guests when the Antrim kids met a Scottish Western District team. They were famous Scottish boxers, Dick McTaggart and Ken Buchanan. I had a bit of a chat with Ken, but never came across him again.

"When I beat him in 1963 it was one of my five appearances in the Ireland senior singlet. Before that, I boxed international contests home and away against Wales, and against an ABA finalist from London named Tony Burns. He was born in Wales, where his father was stationed as a soldier.

"I once boxed in an international against a European champion. I remember the match against Hungary in Dublin Stadium. The coach in the corner for the Hungarian boxers was the great Lazlo Papp.

"I also represented the Northern Ireland team when Ulster bantamweight champion, and competed in the 1962 Commonwealth Games at Perth, Australia. I lost in the first round to a Nigerian opponent, yet felt sure I won every round. Our boxing team coach was the great Charlie McAuley of St Gabriel's.

"When I came back to the corner at the end of ever round Charlie would whisper in my ear I was winning, easily. When the verdict was announced I was very disappointed. The wee opponent later came to me a told me I should have been given the decision. But that is boxing.

"1964 was a special year for me. I was again the Irish featherweight champion, and this led to being named in the Ireland team to compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games, the year our lightweight Jim McCourt came back with a bronze medal."

Paddy then had a brief brush with professional boxing, merely a three-fight career lasting inside three months. He turned professional on January 12, 1965, outpointing Simon Tiger in the Ulster Hall. Six days later he stopped Johnny Radcliffe in the Manchester Free Trade Hall, On March 30 he called in a day, following his third outing, losing on cuts to fellow Belfast super-featherweight Brian Smyth in the Ulster Hall.

He turned to coaching, and is presently the head man in the Dockers ABC, but training action during the present pandemic is limited.

"Strange times we are living in, with the gym mostly empty. Still, I keep active as I have two Elite boxers who are allowed to train - former Monkstown member Michael Bustard at 69 kilo, and a Lithuanian lad who boxes in the 75 kilo division. We get ready for the Irish Elite Championships."

Paddy 'with one M in my surname' celebrates his 67th birthday on December 3. He was 67.

Paddy's milestone brings me right back to Charlie Nash, who marks the 40th anniversary of recapturing the European lightweight title win in Dublin on December 14.

"Winning back the European championship, from Spain's Francisco Leon, put me in a special bracket. I am proud to claim I'm Ireland's only professional boxer to win back a European title," declared Nash.

On Sunday evening 14,1980, he dethroned the previously unbeaten Leon in Dublin's posh Burlington Hotel.

The Derry southpaw proved he had overcome the heartbreak of losing his World title bid against WBC champion Jim Watt, and it was a fellow Derry man, Philip McLaughlin, who made it possible for Nash to make history.

The three-bout dinner-boxing show featured Nash back to his boxing best, on the move and fast punching throughout the twelve to plunder a unanimous verdict on scores of 118-116, 119-114 and 117-115.

"I kept out of the way, stayed on the outside against an opponent unbeaten in his previous 25 contests. The opportunity to get a crack at Leon was down to Mickey Duff, then my manager after the death of Jack Solomons. Mickey had some influence in Spanish boxing, and champion Leon agreed to defend in Dublin.

"After I vacated the European belt, so that I could box Jim Watt for his World title, Leon won the European championship by beating Italian Gancarlo Usai."

Nash, whose ring chart was now 22-2 after a test-run win against Chicago-based Pedro Acosta in the Ulster Hall, was delighted to get a shot at Leon.

The three-bout bill in the Burlington ballroom also paraded a fast-fading former British heavyweight champion Danny McAlinden, then 33 years of age. The Newry-born McAlinden dropped an eight-rounds points decision to London journeyman Tony Moore.

It was 'Dangerous' Dan's penultimate outing,

Three months later, in Birmingham, the Coventry-based big hitter lost to Denton Ruddick and then retired with a career log of 31-12-2.

The other contest supporting Nash versus Leon had Fivemiletown light-heavyweight Trevor Kerr beating Nigel Savoury of Leeds.

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Boxing