Ken Buchanan is as elusive as he was between the ropes in his days holding the undisputed world lightweight crown.
I track him down to a pub on Edinburgh’s Leith Walk, 100 yards from where we’d originally agreed to meet and one hour later than expected.
This particular watering hole is rowdy, especially for a Wednesday afternoon, so we retreat to a bar nearby.
En route the boxing legend exchanges hellos with two or three locals.
And within ten minutes, against a more quaint backdrop, he’s discussed the dangers of drink [Ken is open about his addictions], how excess led to him being hospitalised in 2014 and the death of Muhammad Ali.
The 71-year-old, sporting a tartan waistcoat which evokes memories of his heyday shorts, also takes me back to 1971.
That’s the year he shared a dressing room with Ali in Madison Square Garden – the same venue he relinquished his title to Roberto Duran a year later.
He says: “I was hurt when he passed away – he was a good guy.
“He was the sort of guy you thought would live to be 100 years old.
“It [Ali’s death] brought back personal memories of the things we did together with the dressing room and all that.
“He talked about women and Ali would be saying things like, ‘By the time the second round comes, I’ll have picked one out.’
“He was funny.”
Buchanan, sadly, has little time for the sport’s current stars and barely follows the fight game at all.
He says he’d never heard of Tyson Fury until Fury’s representatives asked him to attend a dinner with world heavyweight champion in Glasgow. Ken declined the offer.
But he is fond of Ricky Burns, Scotland’s WBA light-welterweight champion.
Buchanan, inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2000, says: “He’s a nice lad and he has a lot of ability.”
And his face lights up at the mention of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
He adds: “He is something else, a brilliant boxer.
“It’s becoming a bit of a joke around the world though – all these different world champions.
“When I boxed it was WBA and WBC.
“Some divisions can have six world champions now. It’s a bloody joke; there are far too many belts.”
Tiptoeing around the ring icon’s fortunes away from boxing [he retired in 1982] is pointless.
Two divorces, bad business deals and a lengthy battle with the demons of alcohol – a fight he’s still trying to win – have left him with a lifestyle unbefitting of arguably Britain’s greatest ever boxer.
Yet the man born in the seaside suburb of Portobello has no regrets.
He says: “I’m okay as far as my life is concerned.
“I’ve got a good life and I’m quite happy. I don’t need lots of money or anything like that.”
His affairs are looked after by Owen Smith, a 52-year-old ex-boxer and trainer who the dad-of-two calls his “adopted son”.
They have known each other for nearly four decades. Owen, understandably, is fiercely protective of him.
Two years ago Buchanan was rushed to hospital, and later admitted to a unit specialising in alcohol addiction, after being discovered in a bad way on a park bench.
He says: “I’m brand new now, there are no problems.
“I’m at the gym a couple of days a week.
“It was just drink before.
“I was drinking too much and I had too much free time on my hands.”
He adds: “My mother died in her 50s but my dad was 98 when he passed away a couple of years ago.
“My gran was 93 or 94, so I’ve got a fairly long living line.
“I enjoy myself. I don’t believe 71 is old.”
In the two hours we’re together it’s clear he prefers talking about the past more than the present.
He recalls earning just £4,000 for dethroning Panama’s Ismael Laguna in 1970 [he outpointed him again a year later, picture above] to become world lightweight champion.
Buchanan says: “My manager got 33.5% of the purse.
“Then take away sparring and training expenses – I’m lucky if I came out with £2,000.”
However it’s Laguna’s compatriot Duran that he will be inextricably linked with. The year of their clash in Madison Square Garden was 1972.
The Scot took a tune-up against South African Andries Steyn in Johannesburg two months beforehand.
He says: “I went to the local gym and sparred with a couple of guys and they weren’t very good.
“The following day I said to the taxi driver, ‘I don’t want to go to that gym, can you take me to a gym with fighters that are good?’
“The taxi driver was black and he said, ‘I’ll take you to this other gym but it’s an all-black gym’. I didn’t care.
“They picked out two or three guys capable of working with me. Then it ended up in the paper – ‘WHITE BUCHANAN TRAINS IN BLACK GYMNASIUM’.
‘People made a big fuss about it. You were either black or white – I didn’t care.
“I fought loads of white guys and loads of black guys. It was quite funny how the whole thing was treated.”
What happened two months later in New York was no laughing matter.
From the first bell Duran swarmed him, scoring a knockdown in the first round. A 21-year-old master brawler had emerged, showing no regard for Buchanan’s left jab, so often a fearsome weapon, and luring him into his kind of fight.
The infamous low blow landed after the bell to end the 13th round, leaving the champion unable to continue.
Ken says: “He was a young laddie. The bell went and he hit me in the balls; he says he was just so enthusiastic after getting the world title fight.
“He’s been a great champion though, winning titles at different weights.
“Roberto and I have a lot in common. We get on well now – we’re brand new.”
Hands of Stone, Duran’s Hollywood biopic which stars Robert De Niro as trainer Ray Arcel, will be out later this year. Buchanan is portrayed by John Duddy, the former middleweight contender in pursuit of an acting career.
He says: “First of all it was an Australian, now it’s an Irish guy who’s two inches taller than me.
“He said when he went in the gym he had to get punched in the nuts to get used to the pain.
“It’s great they’re doing something on Roberto. He deserves it.”
Ken Buchanan’s story, in the context of his homeland, is puzzling.
There is no escaping the feeling that Buchanan’s remarkable achievements have been, and remain, scandalously overlooked in Scotland. Regrettably, he knows that better than anyone.
Fans and friends, including Owen, have called for him to be immortalised with a statue.
He jokes: “It’d be nice to see it happen in Leith as that’s where I’m from and where I started boxing.
“As long as they show me snapping a left hand out.”
Ken is preparing to return to the pub I tracked him down to earlier. He has friends waiting. He shakes my hand and says he has enjoyed reminiscing about the peak years of his career.
He adds: “I don’t think what I did will ever be done again – travelling the world to fight, sharing a dressing room with Ali twice.
“I achieved what I wanted to achieve when I was eight years old, having my first fight at three stone two.
“I wanted to be a boxer. I wanted to be a world champion.”
For information on Ken’s statue see gofundme.com/KenBuchananMBE