Ken Buchanan hails the legacy of Jackie Brown, the boxer he looked up to
The former Lonsdale Belt holder, who emigrated to Australia with wife Margaret to be closer to their children in 2009, passed away in Sydney, aged 84, on Sunday morning. He had been suffering with dementia.
Born in the capital, Brown’s rise as an amateur culminated in gold at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958 before he turned professional later that year. However, he’d have to wait another four years before being crowned British champion, a points win over England’s Brian Cartwright in Birmingham, on 27 February, 1962 – the same day Margaret gave birth to their first daughter, Jacqueline. He retired in October 1966 following defeat to George Bowes in Newcastle, bringing down the curtain on a career of 32 wins, ten defeats and a draw.
Now Buchanan, ten years his junior, recalls his first few dealings with Brown that, comes as no surprise, to learn took place within the confines of a boxing gym.
“I really looked up to Jackie when I was just starting out in the sport,” former undisputed world lightweight champion Buchanan, now 74, said. “He was the big name at the time. We used to box at Sparta Boxing Club and he’d let all the boys who’d come down to the gym, more or less, box him.
“He got plenty of training and was great at passing wee tips on. He was very dedicated to the sport. He would always say training was for the night and not just for the first half hour.
“But he was very comical, too. He’d pull me up from time to time and say, ‘Kenny, you’re not skipping the right way, you should be doing it this way’, so he was very meticulous. I don’t think Jackie got the recognition he deserved for what he achieved in the sport.
“He was a very good boxer. He obviously went on to win the British title but perhaps if he’d travelled more abroad to fight like I did, then he would have become a champion at European or world level.”
Buchanan, pictured, was deeply saddened to learn of his passing at the weekend and praised his desire to keep fit long after he’d hung up his gloves. Brown was well known for taking enthusiastic groups of all ages through tough boxing-exercise programmes at the former Marcos Leisure Centre in Edinburgh’s Grove Street.
“We kept in contact even after boxing but we also liked to retrace some of the fights we’d had in our careers,” Buchanan explained. “We still liked to keep fit even in our old age so we had some good workouts together. Edinburgh has certainly produced some good boxers in its time and continues to do so – if the application is there. But Jackie was right in his training methods because at the end of the day, I went on to become a world champion so I think I learnt a lot from him.”
Brown’s daughter Jacqueline recalled two catchphrases which her father used regularly: “No easy way” (meaning don’t take shortcuts to get where you want to be) and “There’s no way you can’t do it” (meaning nothing’s impossible).
Just maybe he had a bigger influence on Buchanan’s illustrious career than he has been credited for.