Hackney Characters #4 – The Gifted One
Eccentric, brilliant, free-spirited, loveable, different, enigmatic, smiling, talented, intriguing… all of these words have been used to describe Hackney based boxer Kirkland Laing. Born in Jamaica and migrating to Nottingham, England at an early age he took up boxing whilst at school and had his first amateur contest in 1966 aged twelve. He became ABA Featherweight Champion in 1972 and turned professional in 1975 signing for the Terry Lawless stable and moving to Dalston to train and reside with future world champion Maurice Hope. Laing had a unique boxing style with virtually no guard and his hands held low to his sides he relied on anticipation and reflexes to avoid his opponents punches. He was adept at making them miss which made him frustrating to box. In the ring he became known as ‘The Gifted One’. He went twelve matches unbeaten capturing the British Welterweight title before losing to Welshman Colin Jones in a thrilling and memorable televised contest that he dominated throughout before being stopped in the ninth round. Laing caused a massive shock upset in 1982 when he defeated the renowned Roberto Duran in America. He trained hard for the contest with Duran and looked set for greatness only to unexplainably disappear! He eventually returned a year later and went on to have a twenty year professional career full of ups and downs in which he never achieved the heights that his talent merited, his managers Terry Lawless and Mickey Duff both despaired at his failure to apply himself fully to the sport. Laing recaptured the British Welterweight Championship in 1987 and won the EBU European Welterweight Championship in 1990 before retiring in 1994 aged 40. He trained at Colvestone Boxing Gym and did most of his roadwork (running) on the Marshes and Hackney Downs. He is widely regarded as the best British boxer never to fight for a world title. In 2003 amid rumours of addictive social habits boxing reporter Steve Bunce tracked down Kirkland Laing and met him on Hackney Downs. Laing looking dishevelled recounted his boxing career indicating that he would one day write a book about his life. Shortly after this he fell from the fourth floor balcony of his Hackney Council flat almost killing himself. In 2009 Oliver Jarratt a solicitor and boxing fan wrote and self-published Kirkland Laing’s biography, a seven year labour of love in which he interviewed people who were close to, and those who fought against the former boxer. The book, a comprehensive record of Laing’s boxing career titled ‘The Gifted One – Kirkland Laing through the eyes of others’ sold out with all profits going to Laing who has now moved back to Nottingham to be with his family. http://www.flickr.com/photos/traxcitement/6465199121/in/photostreamThe Gifted One by Oliver Jarratt documents Kirkland Laing’s boxing career ISBN 978-0-9561413-0-9 (cover photo copyright Chris Moyse) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oY_1iNtpb1EYoutube video of the Steve Bunce interview with some great footage of Kirkland training on the Eastway.