KIRKLAND LAING was slowly cooking like the winter chestnuts on the braziers outside. “The Gifted One” went back to his corner at the end of the sixth, having spent the preceding three minutes in much the same manner as the first 15: posturing and peppering his opponent with crisp counters.
Across the ring, the unknown American sat hunched and huffing. He had been brought over as target practice, reckoned, as he was, to be a well-practiced target. As the floodlight bounced off his peanut shaped pate, he pretended to absorb referee Larry O’Connell’s admonitions.
“One more round, that’s all I’m giving you, son.”
“You’ve got to fight back, okay?”
A minute later, the stunned Albert Hall faithful were on their feet, jostling for a view of the canvas, where Laing lay prostrate – another stat on the record of Buck Smith, possibly the best boxer you’ve never heard of.
“January 10, 1990,” recalls Smith, as sharp as the blow that laid Laing out. He remembers the big fights – the ones he was supposed to lose.