A carpenter of long standing, as well as a Scotsman, Lightweight Champion Kenny Buchanan is ever alert to one of boxing's favorite ploys—the chisel. So last week in Los Angeles when challenger Mando Ramos doubled over in pain from a groin injury suffered in training, the Scot sniffed and said, "Tae hell with that, laddie. I donae care if you coom intae the ring on one leg Friday night. But if you donae coom, forget it." The Mexican asked for a week's grace. The Scot said, and rightly so, "No' even one wee day. They'd have tae cut off me leg before I'd pull out of a fight, and maybe even then I'd still try. I give him an extra week and I'll be way past mc peak, and he knows it."
As for the city of Los Angeles, Buchanan had had it. He had not been all that excited about defending his title there in the first place. Then there was the earthquake. In Scotland, God lets the Scots move whatever earth needs moving. And there was the hotel, just off skid row, where he spent two days before demanding to be moved to another in a less noisy area. And the three teeth that required emergency filling, a cold that wouldn't quit and a sore knee injured in training, plus a hundred arguments with Promoter Aileen Eaton, the California Boxing Commission and an army of Ramos' handlers, all of which the Scot won by simply threatening to go home.
The biggest argument was over officials. Buchanan demanded and got a British judge and a neutral referee, one, he said, who could come from anywhere but California. Mrs. Eaton agreed with reluctance. "But," she said, "we aren't setting any precedent. It's going to cost me $574 to fly a judge here from England. I just hope they pick a referee from Nevada and not from Thailand." As it turned out, the California Boxing Commission picked Arthur Mercante from New York, which cost her $300. ("Mercante," said a Scot with Buchanan, "is that Mexican?")
And so, when Ramos pulled out, Buchanan began packing. That was on Tuesday, just 76 hours before the fight. Ramos has a habit of postponing fights. This was his ninth in five years. Once, probably from conditioned reflex, he postponed his wedding.
"Wait," said Mrs. Eaton to Buchanan, reaching for a telephone. "I just happen to have another challenger ready." She called Ruben Navarro, the No. 3 contender, training a few miles away in San Jacinto for a Feb. 25 fight with Jimmy Robertson.
"I donae like it," said Buchanan darkly. But Jack Solomons, the British promoter who had come along as an adviser, talked him into fighting Navarro. "What's the difference?" said Solomons wisely. "If you can't beat the No. 3 challenger, you don't deserve to be champion anyway. But first let me sec if the British Boxing Board of Control will recognize it as a title fight."
By telephone, the BBC assured Solomons that it would. "Dom nice of them," Buchanan muttered. He holds no love for the British board. After he won his title from Ismael Laguna in San Juan, the British refused to recognize him as champion. Upon Mrs. Eaton's request (she said Laguna had reneged on a promise to fight for her), the BBC had stripped the Panamanian of his title three days before he lost to Buchanan. However, the BBC ruled, if Buchanan fought Ramos for Mrs. Eaton, then it would be recognized as a title fight. Very strange, but no matter.
While Solomons was getting assurances from London, Mrs. Eaton was calling Navarro. He said sure, he'd love a title fight, even on such short notice.
"I heard Ramos was getting $20,000," Navarro said.
"You're getting $15,000," Mrs. Eaton said.