Ken Buchanan and Jim Watt pay warm tribute as iconic club celebrates 300th show

THE Ides of March will have a special resonance for two of Scotland's most famous warriors this year when Ken Buchanan and Jim Watt are the guests of honour at the St Andrew's Sporting Club's 300th show.

The 15 March occasion at the Radisson Hotel in Glasgow represents yet another milestone for one of the country's most enduring sporting institutions. The St Andrew's Sporting Club announced its arrival in epic style back in January 1973 when Buchanan out-pointed Watt over 15 memorable rounds to win the British lightweight title. It remains one of the most celebrated fights in British boxing history.

For Buchanan, it was a rare opportunity to shine in front of a Scottish crowd seven months after he had lost his WBA world title in controversial fashion to Roberto Duran at Madison Square Garden in New York. Incredibly, only four of the Edinburgh stylist's 69 professional fights were staged in Scotland.

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For Watt, defeat against his celebrated compatriot would ultimately provide the motivation he needed to go on and become an outstanding and immensely popular world champion in his own right from 1979 to 1981.

While that opening night was always going to be a hard act to follow for the St Andrew's Sporting Club, it has gone from strength to strength in providing Scottish boxers with a platform to build successful careers. Over the last 37 years, men such as Paul Weir, Pat Clinton and Scott Harrison have all fought at the club before going on to become world champions.

Buchanan and Watt, now 64 and 61 respectively, reflected warmly yesterday on what the club meant to them at very different stages of their careers.

"Before the St Andrew's Sporting Club was established, there was really nowhere in Scotland for Scottish boxers to fight," said Buchanan. "A lot of my early fights were at the big sporting clubs down in London and there was no way my pals could afford to travel down there, book a hotel and hire a dinner suit for the night.

"So it was fantastic for me to have that fight against Jim in Scotland and it's a great thing for both of us to be around for the 300th show all these years later. All credit to Tommy Gilmour for keeping the club going all these years because it's so important for the sport in this country."

Watt, who made three further appearances at the club where he won both the British and European titles, shares his old foe's appreciation of its place in Scottish boxing history.

"For it to still be here for a 300th show is a phenomenal achievement," he said. "I've got great memories of the fight against Ken, although I'd have liked it a lot more if I'd managed to beat him.

"But, in many ways, that defeat did more for my career than most of my victories. I went 15 tough rounds and held my own against one of the world's greatest lightweights and it told me I could compete at that level.

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"I just wish Ken and I could have fought in the modern era, because they would pay a right few quid for a rematch or two. We would probably fight three or four times on pay-per-view telly now. Looking back, we were both proper world champions in an era when there were only 20 titles in ten weight divisions. Now, there are 68 titles and 17 weight divisions."

Nostalgia fills the air like a heady scent whenever Buchanan and Watt are reunited and their presence yesterday begged the question of whether Scottish boxing will ever see their like again.

"I don't think we will ever get back to the 1960s and 1970s when Scotland produced a string of top fighters," said Watt. "But now and again, someone will come along and compete at world level."

Next month's bill will be topped by Kenny Anderson, the undefeated 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medallist from Edinburgh, who faces Northampton's Paul David in a British super-middleweight title eliminator.

"Yet again, we are giving Scottish boys the chance to make it at title level," said club owner Gilmour. "We are very proud to reach our 300th show and it will be a carnival occasion."

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