WEEK FIFTY-THREE-AND-A-HALF – Ken Buchanan/George Kidd

>> Ken Buchanan

George Kidd <<

ken-buchanan                  george-kidd

One of the many popular images of the Scots as a race is that of a tough and occasionally belligerent people, well-able to handle themselves in a scrap should it become necessary. It’s fitting, therefore, that this pairing features two legendary Scots exponents of martial pursuits. Boxer Ken Buchanan was crowned undisputed Lightweight Champion of the World on February 12th 1971, cementing his place as the greatest boxer in Scottish history and certainly the best lightweight ever to come out of the British Isles. Stylish and with a devastating left jab, memories of the Edinburgh-born ‘Fighting Carpenter’ in his tartan shorts remain strong among boxing aficionados. George Kidd was a regular draw throughout the ‘golden age’ of British professional wrestling in the 1960s to the early 1970s, although he began his career as early as 1946. In an era when the once-noble art was drifting into pantomime, Dundee’s ‘Houdini of the Mat’ refused to join in wrestling’s transition from sport to light entertainment and consequently rarely appeared in televised wrestling events. When he retired in 1976 at the age of 51 he had fought over 1000 times, losing on just seven occasions. Both sportsmen were hugely respected by their peers and by the public, though neither enjoyed the huge rewards that professional sport confers on the stars of the 21st century.

KEN BUCHANAN (1945 – )
by Tom Pow

World Lightweight Champion 1970-1972

Catch it on YouTube
not just the thirteenth round
but the whole fight
and it’s the whole fight
you must watch to feel
even after all these years
as Roberto
Hands of Stone Duran
plunders the space
between them. Hombre,
where you are, there I’ll be
and nothing will deny me.
Upright, elegant
the Champion jabs
but can’t find the range
for his punches to do
damage. Still, he’s in there
with a chance
with his heart
always with a chance.

Till at the end of the thirteenth
after the bell Duran swings one
that lands low on Buchanan’s
proud tartan shorts
denting his protector –
Manos de Piedra.
He shuts like a knife
and goes down.

Even after all this time
it seems impossible
that the referee would then –
the Champion unable to continue –
award the fight to Duran, Now the new
World Lightweight Champion!
After all this is not a dodgy off-side,
a trip or a dive; this is two men
in Madison Square Gardens
floodlit on a stage before
thousands there, millions at home,
and a blatant punch after the bell to
Ma baws, ma fuckin baws! 

Duran will not honour him
with a re-match –
he doesn’t need him
to make his millions.
So it seems clear
the gods have stopped
smiling on him and
after a couple of setbacks more
he goes back to being
a joiner. He still loves
the smell of sawdust
and fresh cut wood,
likes being known
simply as ‘Ken’.
But he can’t let go
of the memory, of how
he was cheated. He just can’t
let it lie. He leaves his tools
and flies to New York.
For two weeks he scours
Harlem for Duran, a showdown
on his mind. Always
he has loved to scrap.
A white man in Harlem! they say.
But he fears nothing –
for some know him
even there. And who hasn’t
wanted to go back
to the place
where you felt your life
unravel? Who hasn’t walked
empty streets wanting
one last lover’s embrace
or one last tilt
at justice? With what
will the hollowing out
ever be filled?

My daughter, taking the bus
from Edinburgh to Glasgow,
finds herself next to
an older gentleman –
camel coat, be-ringed fingers.
They’re both late for meetings,
he for one about…
‘Boxing, I’m sorry, I know nothing…’
‘Your dad’ll have heard of me,’
he tells her and gives her
a signed postcard
of a young boxer –
the gloves up, the body
honed, the face
intense, close to being
pretty, but for the slight
spread of the broken nose.
Below his name
in a shaky hand
he writes ‘World Champ‘. ‘Aye,’
he says, ‘they named
this bus station eftir me.’


NOTE: In 2000, Ken Buchanan MBE was inducted into the International
and World Halls of Fame – the only British boxer to win both awards.



George Kidd
by Richard Watt

Bull’s blood and vinegar lugs
has it really been so long since you were home
a moth that traveled between towns
flew to occupied countries
cooled and condensed in their archways;
to start they called you Titch

Until the day you double hooked one bully’s legs
and squeezed
found a world inside
not even light could escape without bending

Chased Rudi Quarez over continents and the Press
but the body remembers its shapes
and drawn to neon
you top-billed bingo halls
picked out in buzzing bulbs outside — George Kidd.
I’m ten years old.

Come in, submit
it’s filling up
beneath the glare from too-bright lights
a whorl of reek punches out dark shapes
gran’s powerful French almond scent
tussles with sawdust and iron shavings,
the smell of artificial light on upholstery
a musk of neoprene and brylcreem

You took it all lying down
wrist lock chin lock whip, half nelson.

So arrogant he wouldn’t raise his hands
Jackie Pallo deckchaired
in that reverse surfboard
like kites in leafless trees, and frieze
rest hold for the cameras




tom-pow-by-sophie-kandaouroffTom Pow’s long poem Transfusion (Shoestring Press 2007) was in praise of another boxer, Muhammad Ali, and of Nelson Mandela. His latest poetry collections are A Wild Adventure – Thomas Watling, Dumfries Convict Artist (Polygon), Concerning the Atlas of Scotland (Polygon and NLS) and B (Mariscat). The Walnut Gatherers (‘Recolectores de Nueces’), a bi-lingual selection of poems, translated by Jorge Fondebrider (Cooperativa la Joplin, Mexico) was published in 2016. He has recently been recorded for the Poetry Archive. 


Kris Miller, Courier, 21/04/15. Richard Watt Staffpic. Staff Pic.Richard Watt 
is a father of one, journalist and Dundee University graduate based in Tayside. He won the University’s poetry prize in 2004, which was co-judged by the late Dr Jim Stewart. His first solo poetry pamphlet, The Golem, was published by Holdfire Press of Merseyside in 2013.




Images courtesy of;
Tom Pow photograph courtesy of Sophie Kandaouroff

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