Steve Bunce looks at the 300 fight loser, who paved the way for others careers
Kristian Laight was not a bad fighter.
The great Kristian Laight would have made 138-pounds to fight Campbell Hatton at the end of March in Gibraltar.
Laight knew when he was meant to lose, knew when he would lose and went about his boxing business without tantrums or theatrics. He would have talked to Hatton during their four rounds, given out a bit of advice as he survived and lost yet again. Boxing needs men like Laight.
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Laight is no longer boxing and that's a good thing.
Back In July, 2018, at a leisure centre in Coventry, Laight fought for the 300th and last time as a paid professional boxer to finish his career with the craziest of statistics: won 12, lost 279 and drew 9. Laight did most of his fighting on small shows, but was always willing to listen to an offer. Any offer, it's boxing.
On the final night he lost over four rounds to a man called Luke Beasley, who was having his second fight; Laight won a round, knew exactly what he was doing and at the bell to end the fight there was no need to look at the referee. Beasley never fought again, left the sport with two wins and no defeats.
Just 14 days before the Beasley loss, Laight had lost for the 278th time, again over four rounds, to Simon Corcoran, who was making his debut; Laight met 68 men making their debuts – Hatton Jr would have just fitted right in. Corcoran is now unbeaten in five fights.
Laight was the losing man in the opposite corner for a lot of good boxers having their first fight, pushing, prodding, holding, abusing verbally in clinches and generally doing his best to make the novice lose his way. He did actually beat a couple of boxers having their first fight, but mostly floated through the four rounds trying to not get cut or hurt and knowing he was out again in some other lost venue in just seven days or less. He lost dozens of four and six round fights, a throwback to the Fifties.
By my calculation he met about 100 boxers who went on and fought for some type of belt or were leading contenders. Terry Flanagan was unbeaten in 12 when he went four rounds, Lewis Ritson was having his first fight when he went four rounds and Derry Mathews was on his way back from three consecutive stoppage losses when he went the full four in 2010. the list of good fighters, hard fighters is impressive.
During his 16 years as a professional boxer, he was stopped only five times, an extraordinary statistic in the boxing business; some men get stopped far more often and hurt far more often in losing a hundred or more fights. You need some special skills to lose 279 times and get stopped only five times. That is class, trust me. Peter Buckley, who was part of Laight’s “team” for the last fight, also quit after 300 fights and he was stopped ten times. Laight was not a bad fighter, he just lost a lot of fights. Buckley would always complain when he was stopped – it meant a blot on his record and a delay to his next payday.
The last time Laight was stopped was in 2014. He was stopped just once in the last eight years, in something like 220 fights and that is because Laight never chased the extra money that comes with being the bloodied loser on a televised undercard against one of the sport’s rising stars. “It’s about a grand extra, but it shortens your career,” said Jon Pegg, who looked after Laight. That is proper, insider talk – no neon, no glamour, just raw facts and figures from the other side of boxing.
Laight only fought once over eight rounds, as a far as I can tell, and he was stopped on that occasion in the seventh round when he met Nadeem Siddique in Siddique’s hometown when Siddique was 13 and zero at the time. I don’t have to tell you that is a fight he was never going to win. We don't need to fix fights; we just have brave matchmakers and men desperate to earn a living – it's the boxing business and I make no apologies for just how hard and brutal and unforgiving it is.
Laight decided to stop fighting after a talk with Pegg and the British Boxing Board of Control. All fighters – men with 300 fights and men and women with three fights – need somebody they can talk to. Somebody who will listen.
Laight’s last win was in 2016, two years before he quit; he had fifty-five fights after that before he retired.
On second thoughts, perhaps he would not have accepted the Campbell Hatton fight and risked a stoppage. The truth is that if he had grabbed the cash and lost in a round or two on a regular basis, he would never have had anything like 300 fights.
Laight walked away grinning, possibly the last of the great losers and certainly not a bad fighter. He was, actually, a very, very good fighter.