Kirkland Laing- The Brit who Beat Duran

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Post by Guest on Fri 18 May 2012, 9:58 am

Morning all.Having had the pleasure of a good old trip down memory lane talking about Herol Graham and more recently Randy Turpin,I kept on thinking about Kirkland Laing.Perhaps it was because he,like Turpin,beat a bone-fide legend, but unlike Turpin who had beaten Robbo in his own back yard but could not replicate it Stateside, Kirkland Laing had gone to the lion's den and grabbed an outrageous result.And like Graham, his career never ignited at the very top level.I don't mean for this to be a series on boxers who have had issues with the psychiatist(that series would run and run) but nevertheless it was sadly true that Laing would not be able to recover from his night-time,(and probably day-time!) activities.Duran could of course,and keep coming back for more and this made him an incredible fighter;except for on this night,however;his persistence could not help him against another boxer with an amazing talent(with thanks to Oliver Jarrett*).

Kirkland Lang was born in Jamaica on 20 June 1954, but moved to Nottingham with his family when he was a child.A brilliant amateur boxer,he was National Champion at schools,junior and then senior ABA level.He showed enormous potential early after turning professional,but ultimately the British and European welterweight titles were where he made his mark...apart from this one fight....
On 4 September 1982 in Detroit’s indoor stadium,Kirkland Laing his career having stuttered badly so far was despatched to face one of the meanest and cruellest fighters ever,known as Hands of Stone.
But the former world lightweight champion had been beaten by Wilfred Benitez earlier in the year in his challenge for the light middleweight crown.He was rebuilding his confidence-and Laing was seen as no more than crowd fodder to feed his confidence.”I knew that, I also knew that I had enough skill to stand him on his head.But what I knew most of all was the reputation of this guy.Man, he was brutal,as mean as they come ,” said Laing.”I had nearly 60 pro fights, and while I generally respected the guy in the other corner,I never felt any fear in my life-apart from this time.I knew that this guy wasn’t fussy what he hit you with or where he hit you.I’d watched him on video and he used to hit opponents with his forearms and even his elbows.And there were times he hit them so low they must have been talking soprano afterwards.Even watching him on the tv screen used to make my eyes water.And I knew that in front of this crowd he would get away with murder-if I let him.”
By contrast Laing was a man who fought by stealth,cunning,and astonishing India-rubber reflexes.His speed and power of anticipation was such that against lesser opponents he could stand with his hands down around his waist with his chin thrust out,goading them in ,and then he would clinically pick them off.
Although their fighting philosophies were poles apart their night-time activities were not,for Laing had already gotten a reputation for women booze and ganja.However he was young enough to get away with it.”I knew I was stupid man,but that’s how it always was for me. I’d just go missing…”
Losing twice in his last three fights(after a run of eighteen straight victories) the omens were not good for him.He had lost his British title to grizzled Welshman Colin Jones the previous year and he desperately needed at least a credible performance against the savage Duran to boost his fortunes. Although Laing was scared ,his manger Mickey Duff, was not,whispering encouragement to him between rounds .
In fact Duff was very confident that he could do it.”I knew that for once he was in excellent shape;he’d been out in Detroit training for the past three weeks –and I hadn’t taken him out of my sights for a second.
"The Americans didn’t give him a prayer," said Duff,"but I bet heavily on my man at odds of 7-1.I knew he had the style to frustrate Duran, the way Sugar Ray had done a few years earlier.He could drive any opponents mad with the way he used to fight,he was as slippery as an eel.”

4 September 1982: At the bell Duran pounced ,ready to get him out of the way early but Laing swept easily out of range,the sniff of danger enlivening his senses.This was the patten of the ensuing ten rounds,Duran the enraged bull rushing and boring his way forward with a growing frenzy as Laing was the matador,refusing to lie down.
Laing said,”He was as dirty as I imagined,his head was as dangerous as his fist. But I was stopping him getting off his big punches inside,I was containing him,and I knew I was winning at long range.I’d just dance one way then the other,never giving him a chance to settle his feet.He shook his hands at me a few times, telling me to come forward and fight.Every time he did this it was like a jolt of adrenaline because it showed me that he was getting more and more frustrated.”

Laing kept his composure all theway to the end,ignoring the jeers and catcalls from the crowd who had grown restless as their hero had failed to deliver the knockout victory they craved.The fans yelled their disapproval at the final bell when Laing was declared the winner by the judges on a majority verdict of 2-1.”Duran took it like a man.He came over and said to me in broken English, “You a very smart sonofabitch!” That took some doing as he was clearly gutted.”
Within nine months Duran,however, would add to his legend by becoming a world champion in a third different division,stopping Davey Moore inside eight rounds to plunder the WBA light middleweight tile-and of course Laing’s remarkable victory had made him one of boxing’s hottest properties,with manager Duff inundated with offers from across the pond.But Laing was not exaggerating when he said “I’d just go missing…” because with Duff waiting to get him his title shot he literally disappeared,even his own family claiming not to know his whereabouts.Six months later Duff got a call from the police,after he’s got himself in trouble. It was in the aftermath of his greatest triumph that he was betrayed by those old demons.
Laing's response to this?"Well, you know me, I just kinda dropped out for a while" he said sheepishly.Even more sadly years later when his own small legend grew and a reporter decided to seek him out,he was found fairly easily found this time-having spent time in a psychiatric unit.With long matted dreadlocks looking older than his years,the long-term drug use had eroded his memory and when reminded of the night in Detroit when he beat Roberto Duran, he looked at the reporter and said, " I did,didn't I ?" Laing was not the only loser,however. Mickey Duff:" Duran was promoted at the time by Don King,who thought Laing would be an easy fight for him.King was so angry afterwards that he refused to do business with me again for years-it cost me a lot of money."

*Oliver Jarrett's biography "The Gifted One"


Last edited by andygf on Fri 18 May 2012, 11:42 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : stupid errors as usual)

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Post by Rowley on Fri 18 May 2012, 10:06 am

Another cracking article Andy, have unfortunately not read Jarretts biography of Laing but have read a few from guys who knew him such as Charlie Magri's who was in the England Amateur squads with him and you get the impression boxing almost come to easy to Kirkland. Charlie tells stories of Laing going missing from the gym for a couple of weeks only to return step straight back into the ring and stand some of the best fighters in the gym on their heads.

A bit before my time was Laing but does genuinely seem to have been a unique talent and always nice to see such a character get a run out on here.

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Post by Guest on Fri 18 May 2012, 10:19 am

Don't know how much stuff on him is out there on the Youtube, not much I would wager.I think the Beeb did show some of his fights later on in his career, but in them days reading about a fight in the papers a day or so after the event was often the only way to keep abreast-crazy.Even when he was pushing 40 I recall the media pundits yearning for him to get a world title shot.The above-mentioned reporter was Bunce, shows how long ago it was because this was when he was a journalist and not the turn- of-the-century ringmaster goon that we now know and love.

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Post by Union Cane on Fri 18 May 2012, 10:35 am

Another great read Andy, cracking stuff.

The Laing / Duran fight is in the CIV archive for those who'd like to have a look.

http://www.606v2.com/t25281-roberto-duran-10370-16-0
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Post by azania on Fri 18 May 2012, 10:36 am

Kirky! What a boxer and what a waster sadly. He had it all. I have never seen anyone who could smoke as much ganja as he could and still turn up for a fight. I recall one fight (a KO loss) where he lieterally had to be dragged out of a social club, high as a kite to fight at the Albert Hall against an American (Butch something). Laing was giving the dude a boxing lesson until he got caught and out. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he showered, got dressed and went straight back to the 'social club' and continued doing what he did best.

I also recall Duff not allowing him to spar with Mugabi because he always gave him a boxing lesson and an urban legend was that Mugabi went for him after a heated sparring session and Kirk knocked him out immediately.

If he had the application of Froch, he would have been a legend and probably Britain's best ever boxer as he was the most talented boxer produced here that I have seen.

Stories of Duff literally barricading him at his house are more than urban legends.

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Post by Union Cane on Fri 18 May 2012, 10:42 am

Union Cane wrote:The Laing / Duran fight is in the CIV archive for those who'd like to have a look.

http://www.606v2.com/t25281-roberto-duran-10370-16-0

Scratch that, the video is no longer available.

Blame Don King.
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Post by Guest on Fri 18 May 2012, 10:42 am

Another good reason for waiting for him to "pass on"then.

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Post by 88Chris05 on Fri 18 May 2012, 11:02 am

Excellent article again, Andy. Not a lot to add from me, aside from the obvious; Laing truly was a mercurial talent. Incredible to think that, in the space of just a decade, Britain had so many talents who all conspired to underachieve dreadfully; Laing, Conteh, Christie, Graham. Makes you appreciate the likes of Burns and Froch a little more I suppose; they lack the virtuosity of the aforementioned guys, but on the other hand that seventies / eighties crop lacked the drive and application of today's fighters I've mentioned - and I know which missing ingredient is the more costly!

Have been meaning to read the Laign biography, so this article is a handy reminder to get round to it. Like you, I haven't heard a great deal regarding Kirkland lately. Have been told he's living in Nottingham again but can't confirm either way.

Anyway, another good read. Thanks.
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Post by Mind the windows Tino. on Fri 18 May 2012, 11:43 am

Great article Andy, thanks.


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Post by DoubleD22 on Fri 18 May 2012, 11:54 am

Have to admit I knew nothing on Kirkland Laing so thank you Andy.

May have to look into "The Gifted One" now, Cheers!

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Post by Rowley on Fri 18 May 2012, 11:56 am

DoubleD22 wrote:

May have to look into "The Gifted One" now, Cheers!

You and Chris may be disappointed mate, had a look myself on Amazon a while ago and believe it is out of print, was going for around £60+ when I looked.

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Post by DoubleD22 on Fri 18 May 2012, 11:59 am

Really Rowley? Thats a shame don't really have the cash to spend £60 on a book! il have a look round none the less, cheers.

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Post by jimdig on Fri 18 May 2012, 3:19 pm

Always enjoy reading about Kirkland. But for me he gets way too much of the rose tinted spectacle treatment. Yes I agree he was a great talent who beat a bloated, fat non motivated Duran, but apart from that????

Colin Jones is the forgotten man of british boxing, 2 great wins over Laing, when in my opinion Laing was not such a waister, for me the first fight was Laing at the peak of his powers, but Jones was just better.

Would I be going too far if I compared Laing to Emanuel Augustus??? Yeah probably, but I think it's too easy to say Laing was stoned for all the fights he lost.

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Post by Guest on Fri 18 May 2012, 3:40 pm

good to see the shout-out to Colin Jones jimdig, although I must plead ignorance of Emanuel Augustus.I certainly was not suggesting that every time he lost he was stoned- and although Jones had his number well that is,as the cliche goes, boxing.Could Colin Jones have beaten Lloyd Honeyghan,who had beaten Don Curry, the man who had him?Very doubtful.Duran was bloated?Possibly but I would say that he was motivated, the fact is that he couldn't lay one on Laing.More credit to Jones in that case eh!

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Post by 88Chris05 on Fri 18 May 2012, 3:46 pm

Colin Jones a very fine fighter, too. Nice mention for him there. Certainly had a great whack on him and came so, so close to usurping McCrory. Desperately wish he'd started each fight a little quicker, as I think taking a few rounds to get fully going cost him that WBC title.
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Post by Josef K. on Fri 18 May 2012, 4:00 pm

Great article Andy, cheers. A story that is all too common, especially with black British boxers of this era. Will have to get down to my local bookstore, see if they've got any for copies of "The Gifted One" for less than 60 quid.

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Post by jimdig on Fri 18 May 2012, 5:51 pm

I should have prefaced my reply, with congratulations on another great article andy. I have long become much more of a voyeur of the site than contributer. But I do enjoy your current rich vain in article writing. Laing crops up over the years in many different articles, greatest not to achieve their worth etc. Back in old 606 days I decided to do a little less reading and a bit more watching, and in reviewing laing it was Colin Jones that I became much more impressed in. His curry performance lends me to believe something trussy has long beaten us all down with, that curry in pomp not drained was a sight to behold, because Jones was a class act.

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Post by Nico the gman on Fri 18 May 2012, 7:22 pm

jimdig wrote:I should have prefaced my reply, with congratulations on another great article andy. I have long become much more of a voyeur of the site than contributer. But I do enjoy your current rich vain in article writing. Laing crops up over the years in many different articles, greatest not to achieve their worth etc. Back in old 606 days I decided to do a little less reading and a bit more watching, and in reviewing laing it was Colin Jones that I became much more impressed in. His curry performance lends me to believe something trussy has long beaten us all down with, that curry in pomp not drained was a sight to behold, because Jones was a class act.
Colin Jones was quality,gave McCrory nightmares and unlucky not to take the world title,tremendous puncher,shows how good Curry was, boxed Jones head off,split in Jones nose was horrific.

Laing was outboxing Jones in the first fight but Jones caught him with a right hand and then excellent combination punching to stop Laing,2nd fight Jones caught him with a cracking left hook and down went Laing,on rubber legs when he got up and ref had to stop it.

Jones getting disqualified is a cracker one of the worst decisions I've seen laughable.

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Post by bhb001 on Sat 19 May 2012, 7:57 am

jimdig wrote: His curry performance lends me to believe something trussy has long beaten us all down with, that curry in pomp not drained was a sight to behold, because Jones was a class act.

I give Curry a hard time, mainly due to Honeyghan beating him, but there is no doubt he was a class act in the ring and a genuine world class fighter. Superb to see at his best.

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Post by milkyboy on Sat 19 May 2012, 2:50 pm

i see where you're coming from jim, with the augustus comments and boxing history is littered with kirkland laings.

At the end of the day for me though, jones was a tough workmanlike boxer with a big punch. I remember the mcrory fights well and was cheering for him, but in reality milt was an average champion and colin didn't quite have enough. Give kirk, jones' resolve and you'd have had a hell of a fighter. How many can you say that about though.

Curry in his pomp was a fantastic welter, whether it was weight draining or just an early demise after a long amateur career etc who knows, he was certainly never the same post the honeyghan fight though.



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Post by jimdig on Sat 19 May 2012, 3:30 pm

Milky, Jones impressed me (via my you tube research, can't say I'm quiet old enough to have seen him in real time) by being dogged, and really utilising every essence of what he had, and really what he had in abundance seemed to be heart (and a handy left hook).

I think when I posted I was just stirring debate. I don't have any strong views on Laing either way, he had skill no doubt, and there has been plenty wrote on him, but after viewing what I could on you tube over the years, i'd be sceptical of putting him in the could have been great category and the jones fights are part of my case against him.

One of the great things about boxing, and for me what makes it so great, is that its got to be the only sport where heart can overcome talent. Scrap that just thought of Chelsea v Barcalona........





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Post by milkyboy on Sat 19 May 2012, 5:13 pm

all fair points jim, much to admire in the qualities jones had.

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Post by horizontalhero on Sat 19 May 2012, 8:01 pm

For me the Jones fight highlights both side of the case for Laing's potential greatness- on one hand Laing was, for my money, handling Jones with ease and was clearly ahead, but both fights also raise questions about Laing's chin. The hands down style meant that when he did get caught, it was flush, never glancing off his gloves or shoulder, and when caught flush, he went - the same thing happened against Buck Smith I believe. That said He was my favourite boxers, so I'm blindly going to hang on to the opinion that if he had the dedication of Frank Bruno he would have been Britains best post war fighter.

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Post by milkyboy on Sun 20 May 2012, 12:06 am

my favourite british fighter in his day too horizontal... i'm just trying to apply some retrospective objectivity... but i too will hang on to the coulda shoulda

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Post by azania on Sun 20 May 2012, 12:09 am

horizontalhero wrote:For me the Jones fight highlights both side of the case for Laing's potential greatness- on one hand Laing was, for my money, handling Jones with ease and was clearly ahead, but both fights also raise questions about Laing's chin. The hands down style meant that when he did get caught, it was flush, never glancing off his gloves or shoulder, and when caught flush, he went - the same thing happened against Buck Smith I believe. That said He was my favourite boxers, so I'm blindly going to hang on to the opinion that if he had the dedication of Frank Bruno he would have been Britains best post war fighter.

He was as high as a kite against Buck Smith.

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Post by TheMackemMawler on Thu 24 May 2012, 5:58 pm

A friend of my Dad's was in Kirklands stable. My dad tells me the same story (as though its the first time Iv'e heard it) every time Kirklands name comes up. It goes something like this......The gym would be out running and Kirkland would conveniently go missing then emerge from the local park an hour or so later and jog the last leg back to the gym, invariably smelling of Gange. With fresh legs he'd be first back to the gym.. to the applauds of the coach. HaHa! I think thats funny. A naturally fit, supremely talented, flawed character.
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