Kirk was as talented as he was frustrating. For example he only ever proved his potential greatness once in my opinion, the night he defeated the great Roberto Duran. Duran was coming off a 15 round points loss to Wilfred Benitez in 1982 and wanted a win over a capable opponent before moving up in weight to challenge for another world title but unfortunately for him Kirk got himself into fantastic shape for the first time in his life to nick a deserved split decision over 10 rounds. The win should have laid the foundations for a lucrative world title fight against a big name but what did Kirk go and do? He went on the missing list and just partied for an entire year, much to the annoyance of manager Mickey Duff.
Another example Kirk’s eccentricity came a few days before he was to defend his British welterweight crown against Fulham tough guy Rocky Kelly in 1987. I was driving through Hackney one day on my way to work and came across Kirk walking down the street smoking the biggest joint I’d ever seen. I motioned over to him and exchanged a few pleasantries before wishing him well for the fight. A couple of days later Kirk turned up for the weigh-in at a Fulham pub on his own, despite a couple of hundred Rocky Kelly fans baying for his blood and shouting insults Kirk just smiled his way through the whole thing, without a care in the world. Come fight night, though he was all business. Granted Kelly lacked natural talent but he was a hell of a brawler, in his prime and all fired up. Against any other British fighter that night Kelly would have been crowned British champ. But Kirk. Like so many other times, was firing on all cylinders and promptly dismantled Kelly in five painful rounds.
Jarrett’s book leaves no stone unturned. He tells Laing’s life story through the eyes of the people that knew him best, his old school friends, local amateur rivals, trainers, managers, promoters and opponents. From Terry Lawless, Mickey Duff, Maurice Hope, even his last trainer Joe Ryan. The stories they have to tell make for compulsive reading.
Oliver Jarrett spent six years researching, talking and cross referencing all 450 pages and the result is a boxing fans dream. All profits from the sale of the book will go to Kirkland Laing.
For details on how to purchase The Gifted One, through the eyes of others Click here
October 30, 2009