In sad news, it has been reported how British boxer Kirkland Laing, a true one-off, has passed away at age 66. The former British and European welterweight champion who once shocked the world by defeating the legendary Roberto Duran, had been living in obscurity these last few years; Laing suffering severe injuries from a fall from his balcony in his Hackney flat in 2014.
Tributes for “The Gifted One” have been coming in, with promoter Frank Warren leading the way:
“All at Queensbury are very sad to hear news of the passing of former British and European welterweight champion Kirkland Laing. Our thoughts are with Kirkland’s family,” Warren wrote.
Lang was an incredibly gifted boxer, as his nickname would suggest. Blessed with amazing reflexes and agility, Laing had an unusual style, a style that could give even a great like Duran absolute fits. Yet Laing, born in Jamaica on June 20, 1954, could also turn up for a fight in poor condition. Notorious for blowing hot and cold, Laing could box like a genius one night and be knocked out by a journeyman on another night.
Going pro in April of 1975, this at age 20, Laing went on to face big names such as Colin Jones, Duran, Fred Hutchings, Sylvester Mittee, Rocky Kelly, Nino La Rocca and Donovan Boucher. It was in September of 1982 when Laing beat Duran via split decision in Detroit. Laing drove his manager Mickey Duff crazy, going AWOL after the fight, Duff searching all over the place for his fighter, who was suddenly getting offers for big-money fights.
When he did finally return to the ring, having smoked a good deal of marijuana and partied a lot, Laing was stopped by Hutchings. The biggest win of his career had not been capitalised on. There were still some special performances to come – with Laing dazzling in British and European title fights – and Laing boxed on until 1994. Being stopped by Glenn Catley in his final fight, this the eighth stoppage loss of his career, Laing sadly fell into drugs, with an addiction to crack almost killing him.
A true enigma, a complete one-off who nobody had a bad word to say about (people close to Laing may have been exasperated by his behaviour many times, but through it all, Laing was liked by all), Kirkland Laing should have been a world champion who made millions.
Laing’s final ring record reads 43-12-1(24). On his finest night, however, “The Gifted One” was capable of incredible things in the ring.