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The gifted eccentric

Kirkland Laing was one of the most talented British boxers over the past 30 years. He defeated champions but lost to ordinary fighters.

And he never fought for a world title.

Oliver Jarratt, a solicitor and lifelong boxing fan, spent six years interviewing Laing’s teachers, classmates, trainers, team-mates, and referees to write a book about the eccentric boxer.

The result is The Gifted One: Kirkland Laing through the Eyes of Others, a hardcover book of 453 pages, self-published by Jarratt.

Laing was born in Jamaica on June 20, 1954, soon after his heavily pregnant mother had fallen off her bicycle, leaving the baby handicapped.

Laing started walking only at the age of five and even as a grown man he experienced physical problems. Some of the effects of the accident were permanent and he explained that “one foot (was) going north and the other foot south”.

Laing’s father, hoping for a better life, left Jamaica to settle in Nottingham, England, with his family when his son was still very young.

Laing was 17 years old when he won an amateur title and he turned professional in April 1975.

In a roller-coaster career, the dreadlocked, flashy and fast-handed fighter won the British and European welterweight titles and in a resounding upset in September 1982 beat the legendary Roberto Duran over ten rounds.

After retiring a few times and making a few comebacks, Laing had his last fight on November 22, 1994 when he was 40 years old.

In finally signing off, he was stopped by Glenn Catley in five rounds; the same Catley who lost his WBC super-middleweight belt when South African Dingaan Thobela knocked him out in dramatic fashion some years later.

Jarratt also documented Laing’s rather turbulent life outside the ring and added interesting information and stories of the fighter’s rivals.

His superb research helped make the book such an absorbing read.

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