Hall of Famer Ken Buchanan, former undisputed lightweight champion, dies at 77

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Scottish boxer Ken Buchanan is piped in by Sergeant Dave Smith (L) and Colour Sergeant Ally Alcorn at Glasgow Airport on his way to the US, where he will be inaugurated into the American Hall of Boxing Fame and become the only living British boxer to have done so.   (Photo by Ben Curtis - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Ken Buchanan, a 2000 inductee into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, died in his sleep on Saturday at 77. (Photo by Ben Curtis via Getty Images)

Ken Buchanan, who parlayed slick boxing skills and toughness into a Hall of Fame career and a reign as undisputed lightweight champion, died in his sleep at his home Saturday. He was 77. The Ken Buchanan MBE Foundation announced his death in a Facebook post.

Buchanan, who was from Glasgow, Scotland, was 61-8 with 27 knockouts in his boxing career, but is perhaps best known for a controversial defeat to the legendary Roberto Duran at Madison Square Garden in New York on June 26, 1972.

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Duran was 28-0 heading into that bout and en route to becoming one of the greatest fighters of all time. Buchanan, though, was a 2-1 favorite entering the bout and earned a then-lightweight record purse of $125,000. The fight did a then-record gate for an indoor lightweight fight of $223,901.

Buchanan was dropped by Duran in the first round, though Buchanan's gloves hit the mat but he kept his footing. Duran controlled the fight and was up 8-3-1 on two cards and 9-2-1 on the other when it ended in controversial fashion in the 13th round. As Duran was swarming him, Buchanan went down in agony.

He claimed he'd been kneed in the groin, and said afterward his metal cup was dented. Buchanan was critical of referee Johnny LoBianco afterward.

"I have never seen such a referee," Buchanan told Sports Illustrated. "He don't give no protection at all."

SI's Tex Maule reported that several days after the bout, LoBianco watched a television replay and agreed it was a low blow that put Buchanan down.

Buchanan first won a version of the lightweight title on Sept. 26, 1970, when he defeated future Hall of Famer Ismael Laguna, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to win the WBA title via split decision. He added the WBC belt to become undisputed champion on Feb. 12, 1971, when he won a unanimous decision over Ruben Navarro.

He rematched Laguna on Sept. 13, 1971, and won a unanimous decision in his last successful title defense. After he lost to Duran, he only fought for the title one more time.