Feature | Premium | Jun 20 2019

Whatever happened to Kirkland Laing?

Once upon a time, boxing writer Ian Probert got to know Kirkland Laing as well as almost anyone got to know Kirkland Laing. They would meet several times over the next few years, share spliffs and sink plenty of beer before Laing disappeared from view
Kirkland Laing
Kirkland Laing v Sammy Floyd  |  REUTERS/Action Images

SO often life seems to be defined, even, one might suspect, moulded by coincidences which sometimes promise to take on a divine quality. Well this one probably doesn’t fall even close to that category. I’m not going to make that claim. Nevertheless it managed to set my heart racing in a way that it hasn’t done for quite some time. When I checked out Facebook this morning I was presented with a memory from four years ago and prompted to share it. This one wasn’t a picture of a bubbling snotty child, or a cheesy pizza I had snapped before consuming eons ago. It was a photograph that I had posted showing a very much younger me posing alongside a boxer named Kirkland Laing. The image is standard fare in boxing nowadays: a sort of prototype selfie in which a mock-glaring Kirkland holds a polished glove to my chin; I’m smiling, of course, trying to hide the fact that I’m a little overawed to be in the close vicinity of somebody who was (and remains) one of my all-time boxing heroes. The picture was taken some time in the pre-camera phone days of 1989 when Kirk was in training for a European title shot in Italy against Nino La Rocca (unsuccessful (of course)). 

If I close my eyes I can almost smell that memory: I’m in the Kings Cross gym run by the late and inestimably generous of spirit boxing manager, trainer and treasured cutsman Dennie Mancini, situated not in Kings Cross but beneath a bric-à-brac shop selling dildoes, Bros posters and jumping beans in London’s Carnaby Street. Kirk is sparring with somebody, possibly a young middleweight named Ray Webb but I could be wrong. He’s swearing at nobody in particular as he throws a bewildering array of punches that you will find in no textbook.

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