Hackney boxing champion Kirkland Laing dies aged 66

Kirkland Laing celebrating with his manager Mickey Duff after winning the European Welterweight titl

Kirkland Laing celebrating with his manager Mickey Duff after winning the European Welterweight title in just two rounds at Wembley. Laing, 36, of Hackney, knocked out Frenchman Antoine Fernandez 30 seconds from the end of the second round. - Credit: PA

Hackney boxing champion Kirkland Laing has died aged 66 - seven years after he fell from a balcony in Hackney.

The troubled fighter retired from boxing in 1994 after securing 43 victories - including a historic win against US champion Roberto Duran.

“The Gifted One” as he was known is often regarded by many as the “best British Boxer never to win a world title” - for which he never fought.

Both his lifestyle and his training regimes could have prevented him from boxing for and possibly gaining world honours, which many other less talented British fighters ultimately achieved.

Laing started boxing competitively around the age of 12 with Elliot Durham School and Nottingham YMCA ABC and featured regularly in the Nottinghamshire Schools' Championships which he was often successful in.

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In 1968 he switched to the Union Steward ABC and in March 1970 he became National Schools' Senior champion at 7 stone 9lbs.

Also in 1970 he reached the semi-final stage of the National Junior ABA Class A championships only to lose to Dave Rose (West Ham).

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In 1971 and by now with the Clifton ABC, Laing won the National Junior ABA Class B at 8 stone 7lbs with a first-round stoppage of Lee Town (Brighton Boys ABC).

A year later, he was no less than the ABA Senior featherweight title holder, outscoring Edinburgh’s Vernon Sollas in a tight final at Wembley Arena but Laing was overlooked by the then ABA for the 1972 Munich Olympics.

In June, 1973 Laing represented England at the European Junior Championships in Kiev (then part of the old Soviet Union) where he won a fine bronze medal.

Two years later he left the amateurs with 57 victories (2 inside) and 20 losses (1 inside).

Laing signed with successful east London manger, Terry Lawless and had the backing of Mickey Duff’s promotional organisation to guide him to the top of the ladder. He located to Hackney, often training at the old Colvestone ABC gym under Jim Ryan and also at The Royal Oak, Canning Town, to pursue his career in the “hardest game of all”. 

He made his paid debut on April, 14, 1975 with a second-round stoppage of Joe Hannaford of Shrewsbury at the Albany Hotel in Nottingham.  

He remained unbeaten for a further 11 contests before engaging in an eight-round draw with Peter Morris (98-98), but eight months later he stopped Morris in five rounds in Solihull.

Two fights later in April 1979, Laing was crowned the British welterweight champion after stopping Jamaican-born Henry Rhiney in the 10th round of a scheduled 15-rounder.

Overall he enjoyed a successful career where his final ring tally was 43 victories (24 inside), 12 losses (8 inside) and a lone draw.

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