Kirkland Laing, the British boxing champion whose career spiralled into drink and drugs after beating the great Roberto Duran in 1982, dies aged 66 – seven years after he was critically injured falling from a balcony in Hackney
- Ex-British boxing champion Kirkland Laing has passed away at the age of 66
- Laing will be best remembered for beating the great Roberto Duran in 1982
- His death comes seven years after he survived a fall from a fourth-floor balcony
- He was known as the ‘Gifted One’ and won 43 of his 56 fights as a professional
Former British and European champion Kirkland Laing has died aged 66.
Laing, who retired from boxing in 1994 with a record of 43 victories, 12 defeats and one draw, will be best remembered for producing one the finest performances by a British fighter on American soil when he upset the great Roberto Duran back in 1982.
That was the greatest victory of Laing’s career but his life outside of the ring spiralled into drink and drugs after that famous night in Detroit.
Former British and European champion Kirkland Laing has died at the age of 66
Laing (middle at the back) is one of Britain’s greatest fighters to never fight for a world title
Laing, who reportedly blew all of his earnings and lost his next fight, would never challenge for a world title but would go on to win the British title four more times and the European belt after beating Duran before he walked away from the sport.
His tragic passing comes just seven years after he survived a fall from a fourth-floor balcony in Hackney. The incident, which happened in 2013, saw Laing rushed to hospital in critical condition.
Legendary promoter Frank Warren paid tribute to Laing after news of his death surfaced online.
He wrote on Twitter: ‘All at Queensberry are very sad to hear news of the passing of former British & European Welterweight Champion Kirkland Laing. Our thoughts are with Kirkland’s family at this time. RIP Champ.’
Laing will be best remembered for shocking the world to beat the great Roberto Duran in 1982
The ‘Gifted One’ retired from boxing in 1994 with 43 victories, 12 defeats and one draw
The Jamaican-born fighter was adored by British boxing fans and enjoyed a successful 20-year career before he retired.
Laing largely stayed away from working in boxing after he hung up his gloves and spent the last 15 years of his life living close to his Nottingham family.
The ‘Gifted One,’ as he was known in the sport, had a decorated amateur career, winning the ABA title before turning professional in 1975.
He won his first British title nine years later but the defining night of his career was undoubtedly against Duran.
Laing was a huge underdog against Duran, who had only two years earlier beaten Sugar Ray Leonard and made $5million from their rematch, with the Brit’s victory selected as the Ring Magazine’s Upset of the Year award.
Despite claiming such a major scalp, Laing didn’t fight again for another year and spent the fortune he earned from beating Duran while the latter fought four times – including against fellow Brit Jimmy Batten – and earned an estimated $6m in the same period.
Hundreds of tributes poured in for Laing following his death, with fans and former and current fighters all paying homage to him.
Promoter Kalle Sauerland wrote on Twitter: ‘I remember seeing Kirkland Laing at St Pancras gym training alone as no one wanted to spar with him as he was just too good. RIP- gone way too soon.’
Former British champion Herol Graham also said: ‘I am gutted to hear this tragic news! He was gifted! Rest in peace Kirkland.’
Ex-world title challenger Ashley Theophane added: ‘Kirkland Laing along with Nigel Benn and Lloyd Honeyghan. My favourite British boxers. RIP to a great fighter. Super talented.’
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