On this date in 1966 at Earls Court Arena in London, Muhammad Ali defended his heavyweight title against Brian London, winning by Round 3 KO. Future lightweight champion Ken Buchanan appeared on the same card, defeating Ivan Whiter in an eight-round decision.
This was Ali’s second straight fight in London. Two-and-one-half months earlier he had stopped Henry Cooper in six rounds at Arsenal Football Stadium, in a rematch of their 1963 fight, when Cooper had very nearly knocked Ali out in Round 4, before getting stopped in Round 5.
London was definitely one of the poorer quality challengers Ali faced during his first reign. He had previously lost in a world title bid against Floyd Patterson, in 1959, at the time he was the reigning British Commonwealth Champion. Along with Cooper, he was a very popular domestic heavyweight in the British boxing scene of the 1960s. He did have wins over world class fighters such as Willie Pastrano, Zora Folley and Pete Rademacher.
But by the time he faced Ali, he was past his prime. Ali hit him nearly at will. Following his challenge against Ali, London would go a mere 2-6, before retiring in 1970.
Buchanan’s appearance on this same card is a large part of what makes it historically significant. The win over Whiter improved him to 9-0 and kept him on pace to eventually become the world champion at lightweight, a title he won from Ismael Laguna in September 1970.
Buchanan was an outstanding boxer and deserves a spot near the top of any pound-for-pound list of British boxing greats. He was the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Fighter of the Year for 1970.
Unfortunately, he came along at a tough moment historically. His championship reign lasted less than two years, as he was savaged by Roberto Duran in June 1972. Duran is one of the top two or three fighters in the entire history of the lightweight division and ranks high on many pound-for-pound lists. While Buchanan was a legitimately great fighter, he is one of those cases of a fighter getting eclipsed by the brilliance of the fighter who replaced him.
Still, he was one of the finest talents of his era and certainly deserves to be remembered by boxing fans on both sides of the Atlantic.