Jamaican-born British fighter Kirkland Laing (43-12-1, 24 KOs), regarded by many as the best British boxer to never win a world title, has sadly passed away just a few days before his 67th birthday in a Yorkshire care home.
Laing fought 56 times as a pro - in a career that spanned an incredible 22 years - and won British and European welterweight titles during the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but he was most remembered for his shock win over four-weight world ruler Roberto Duran. The suprise victory over 'Hands of Stone' in September 1982 was awarded The Ring Magazine 'Upset of the Year'.
Laing lived in Hornsea, East Yorkshire at the time of his passing on June 9, 2021. He was 66-years-old and would have turned 67 on June 20.
During his professional boxing career he won the British welterweight title on two occasions, and won the EBU belt in 1990, with a second-round knockout of Antoine Fernandez at the Wembley Conference Centre.
Unfortunately, his career was affected by his indulgence in drink, drugs and women. In the aftermath of his greatest win over Duran - widely regarded as the greatest lightweight in boxing history - Laing went missing, blowing his earnings, while the man he defeated went on to fight another four times the same year, earning over $6 million in fight purses.
It was way back in 1975 when 20-year-old Laing made his pro bow at the Albany Hotel in Nottingham, blasting away his first opponent Joe Hannaford within 249 seconds. The rare talent turned pro after an extensive amateur career that saw him box for England in European Championships, and claim many Midlands Counties trophies, as well winning the ABA Nationals at featherweight in 1972
Unbeaten in 19 contests, Laing challenged for the British welterweight title for th first time in 1980, but was halted in the ninth round by a 13-0 future world title contender Colin Jones. Three fights later, in the same year, Laing captured the Lonsdale belt on his second crack, but his pro record became littered with losses to lesser opponents, where the welterweight didn't apply himself in training or fights.
Vacated by Lloyd Honeyghan - another Briton who holds one of the greatest upsets in history, over Don Curry - the British welterweight belt became Laing's for the second time in 1987.
His first attempt at European honours went the same way as his initial shot at the British, but he kept up traditions by winning it on his second time of asking in 1990, in his 15th year as a pro.
It was future world champion Glenn Catley that retired Laing in 1994 when he was 40, with a fifth-round stoppage. His last 10 fights between November 1990 to November 1994 resulted in five wins and five losses.
Following his retirement, Laing lived in Hackney, London, and was often subject of many wild rumours. It was believed that he fell from his balcony in 2003 in unexplained circumstances. He was also said to be living on the streets, although it was never fully confirmed. Many reporters tried to track him down with no success, but a book was written about him in 2009, titled '"The Gifted One" Kirkland Laing - Through the Eyes of Others' which took author Oliver Jarrat six years to complete. The book contained insights from many people close to the fighter such as former managers, trainers and opponents he faced during both amateur and professional level.
The rumours of his whereabouts were discussed so often that Boxing News Magazine managed to track him down to a care home in Yorkshire in 2012 and dutifully informed the public that he was safe and well.
BBN would like to wish all Kirkland's friends and family their deepest condolences during this difficult time.