Kirkland Laing, known for upset win over Roberto Duran, dies at age 66

DETROIT – SEPTEMBER 4,1982: Kirkland Laing (R) connects with a left jab in opposition to Roberto Duran in the course of the bout at Cobo Corridor on September 4, 1982 in Detroit, Michigan. Kirkland Laing gained by a SD 10. 1982 Upset of the Yr – Ring Journal. (Picture by: The Ring Journal/Getty Photos)

Kirkland Laing, greatest identified for his signature upset victory over the legendary Roberto Duran in September 1982, died Wednesday at age 66. 

The native of Jamaica compiled a document of 43-12-1 (24 KO) in a profession that spanned almost twenty years and noticed him win British, Commonwealth and European welterweight championships. He was nicknamed “The Gifted One” for his cat-quick reflexes, his ring IQ and his capability to keep away from punishment regardless of standing in entrance of opponents with each arms dangling at his sides. 

Laing turned professional at age 20 with a second-round knockout of Joe Hannaford in Nottingham on April 14, 1975 and he captured the British welterweight title for the primary time with a tenth spherical TKO of Henry Rhiney that raised his mark to 15-0-1 (6 KO). After notching three non-title wins over Des Morrison (W 8), Salvo Nucifero (W 6) and Colin Ward (KO 5), Laing misplaced the belt in his first protection in opposition to future three-time world title challenger Colin Jones by ninth-round TKO, then misplaced the rematch, once more by ninth-round TKO, almost 13 months later.

After profitable two of his subsequent three fights, Laing signed to struggle Duran on September 4, 1982 at Detroit’s Cobo Corridor — a struggle that aired reside on ESPN’s Prime Rank Boxing sequence. On paper, this was to be Duran’s “comeback” struggle after dropping a unanimous choice to WBC tremendous welterweight king Wilfred Benitez in January, however the Duran that stepped between the ropes was not the beast who dominated the lightweights for almost seven years or the drive of nature that dethroned Sugar Ray Leonard within the “Brawl in Montreal,” however as a substitute was a pudgy, listless and ill-prepared 155-pounder. Duran had gotten away with less-than-stellar conditioning in earlier fights, however in opposition to a supremely assured and fantastically ready Laing, Duran would pay a worth — a giant worth. 

Curiously, Duran supplied to the touch gloves on the opening bell , and that angle appeared to set the tone for your complete match from Duran’s standpoint. Conversely, Laing, who refused the gesture, proceeded to go about his enterprise. Along with his fingers held decrease than the best, he looked for openings behind fast-twitch feints. Duran usually lunged at Laing, who was additional helped by the enormous 24-foot-square ring. The British-based Jamaican quickly realized how a lot faster he was than his way more skilled foe, and, beginning in spherical three, started spearing Duran’s face with piercing blows.

These blows created welts on Duran’s left cheekbone, a blemish that was made worse by Laing’s flush rights. Laing’s bravado steadily elevated, and shortly he felt snug sufficient to face flat-footed earlier than the Panamanian nice. His ring generalship, defensive abilities and clear punching piled up factors in opposition to the docile Duran. In the beginning of spherical 10, Duran prolonged each gloves for the customary last-round faucet and Laing, as soon as once more, rejected the entreaty. An overhand proper to the facet of the pinnacle within the struggle’s last minute precipitated Duran’s legs to dip, and the long run Corridor of Famer’s punches had been not sturdy sufficient to maintain Laing from buying and selling with him at shut vary. 

Though ringsiders had Duran dropping eight of the ten rounds and ESPN scorer Al Bernstein had Laing forward 88-83 getting into the ultimate spherical, the official playing cards had been a lot nearer. Bernard Humphrey had Duran up 96-95 however he was overruled by Nick McAlpine and Stuart Kirschenbaum, each of whom had Laing a 96-94 victor. Laing’s break up choice victory was named THE RING’s 1982 Upset of the Yr, and, similar to that, Duran had misplaced for the third time in his final 5 fights whereas Laing vaulted into the championship image.  

Nevertheless it was to not be. The off-kilter rhythms that made him a masterful performer contained in the ring additionally dominated the way in which he carried out his life outdoors it, and for causes solely identified to him, he wouldn’t struggle once more for one more one yr and 6 days. Worse but, in that return, he was TKO’d in spherical 10 by Fred Hutchings, a outcome that successfully eliminated him from world title consideration for the rest of his profession. 

Laing returned to the ring 14 months after the Hutchings loss and he gained 10 of his subsequent 11 fights, regaining the British welterweight title by defeating Sylvester Mittee (KO 5) in March 1987 and retaining it in opposition to Rocky Kelley (KO 5) two fights later. His string of success earned him a shot on the vacant European welterweight championship in opposition to 72-4 Italy-based Mauritanian Nino La Rocca in Vasto, Italy in April 1989, however the 34-year-old Laing misplaced by unanimous 12-round choice. His final nice burst noticed him retain his British title in opposition to the 14-0 Trevor Smith (KO 6), win the European championship in opposition to the 37-1-1 Antoine Fernandez (KO 2) and cease Rocky Berg in two rounds in October 1990, however that run ended 35 days later when he misplaced the European title to former WBA tremendous light-weight champion Patrizio Oliva by unanimous choice in Italy.

Over the following 4 years, Laing skilled highs (a fifth spherical TKO over the 11-0 Dean Cooper as a 39-year-old in July 1993) and greater than his share of lows comparable to losses to world title challengers Donovan Boucher (KO by 9) and Kevin Leusching (KO by 5). Following a fifth-round TKO loss to future WBC tremendous middleweight champion Glenn Catley in November 1994, the 40-year-old Laing referred to as it a day. 

Laing’s life included bouts with alcohol and drug abuse, and his passing got here eight years after he fell from a fourth-floor balcony in East London. However these lucky sufficient to have seen him struggle will keep in mind him for his velocity, his athletic presents, his daring and his braveness. 


Lee Groves is a boxing author and historian based mostly in Pleasant, West Virginia. He’s a full member of the BWAA, from which he has gained 20 writing awards, together with two first-place awards, since 2006. He has been an elector for the Worldwide Boxing Corridor of Fame since 2001 and can be a author, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He’s the writer of “Tales from the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics” (available on Amazon) and the co-author of  “Muhammad Ali: By the Numbers” (also available on Amazon). To contact Groves a few personalised autographed copy, use the e-mail [email protected] or ship him a message via Facebook or Twitter (@leegrovesboxing)

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