Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 October 2010 06:50
Written by Alexander Zammit
Tuesday, 19 October 2010 06:28
Stracey was a tough fighter who carried a solid punch; He waged ring wars with the top men in Europe and the world - and came out ahead most of the time; During his career, he won the WBC Welterweight Championship of the World, the EBU Welterweight Championship of Europe and the BBBC Welterweight Championship of Great Britain.
He defeated such men as Jose Angel Napoles, Hedgemon Lewis, Danny McAloon, Bobby Arthur, Jack Tillman, Roger Menetrey, Ernie Lopez, Max Hebeisen, David Melendez, Pat Murphy, Antonio Torres, Harri Piitulainen, David Pesenti, Georges Warusfel, Guy Vercoutter, Keith Averette and Bernie Terrell.
John Henry Stracey was born in Dagenham, Essex, on 22 September 1950, and was one of four brothers who grew up in council flats in Bethnal Green, close to the Whitechapel Road. John's father, Dave, was a boxing fanatic who encouraged his son in the sport.
The young Stracey first boxed at the age of nine, and over the next 10 years represented four East End amateur clubs: Repton, Berner, Robert Browning and St George's. Stracey was a wiry, pale lad who took time in filling out, but by 14 he was a National Schoolboy champion at 94lb. The following year he won a National Boys Clubs title and became the Amateur Boxing Association junior champ for the first time. By now he was 1051b, and when he added another Junior title in 1967, in the 1261b division, it was clear British boxing had a star in the making.
In 1968, his first senior season, Stracey caused a sensation by outpointing reigning ABA champion, Terry Waller, in the London finals. However, as the experts gathered at the national semis to witness the arrival of a new star, Stracey was knocked out by a single right hand in just 45 seconds.
The punch, which was witnessed by millions on BBC television, was thrown by the future world lightweight champion Jim Watt. It was something that the Scot has never forgotten. 'When I arrived in Manchester, I saw a lad who I took to he Stracey's younger brother,' recalls Watt. `I couldn't believe it when somebody pointed him out as my opponent. I couldn't help thinking he looked like a boy on a man's errand. 1 don't think I've ever hit anybody harder or with sweeter timing.'
Watt went on to win the ABA final, and was a formality for the Olympic Games in Mexico City...until he pulled out, citing weight problems. Stracey was called up as a late ,substitute, but any thoughts he had of winning a medal were ruined in his second contest, against Ronnie Harris of the USA who outpointed him by a 4-1 majority on the way to collecting gold. A decade later, Harris beat Alan Minter and fought Hugo Corro for the world middleweight title.
Stracey was still so young that he decided to wait another year before moving out of the amateur game. He won the ABA light-welterweight crown, in 1969, and then turned pro five days before his 19th birthday, on September 17, 1969, knocking out Santos Martins in two rounds. Stracey won his first twelve fights, eleven by knockout. Fight number thirteen was against Teddy Cooper, on January 19, 1971. Cooper was not a big name in boxing either, but this fight ended in controversy when Stracey won by a fifth round disqualification. On October 5 of 1971, Stracey drew (tied) in ten rounds against Frankie Lewis.
Stracey had five more wins in a row before being matched with Marshall Butler, on May 25, 1972. Stracey suffered his first defeat when outpointed by Butler over ten rounds. He then put a string of four more wins in a row before facing Bobby Arthur for the British Welterweight title on Halloween night, 1972. He lost the fight for the regional title with another controversial ending: This time, Stracey found himself disqualified, in round seven. Stracey then won five more in a row, and he met Arthur in a rematch on June 5, 1973, this time winning the title with a fourth round knockout of Arthur.
After five more wins and another loss, Stracey had his first fight abroad, fighting Roger Menetrey in Paris, France, on May 27, 1974 (at the Stade de Roland Garros, where the French Open is played). The fight was for the European union Welterweight title, and Stracey proceeded to win that belt with an eighth round knockout.
During the 1970s, it was a common practice in boxing to give world title shots to boxers that held continental titles. For example, the OPBF (Oriental Pacific Boxing Federation) champion would be given priority over other challengers for world title fights and so on. Stracey was not the exception, and, after winning five more fights in a row (including a win over Ernie Lopez), he received his first world title shot: challenging WBC World Welterweight champion José Nápoles in Nápoles' home-town of Mexico City, Mexico, Stracey was sent down in round one, but he recuperated to close Nápoles' eye and have referee Octavio Meyran stop the fight in the sixth round, Stracey winning the world championship by a technical knockout. The new champion declared "he could have knocked me down in every round but I'd have won it anyway". It was Nápoles' last fight.
John H Stracey v Jose Angel Napoles, Mexico City, 6 December 1975
Legendary Cuban defector Napoles was past his best but still seemed a safe bet against the largely untested Stracey.
Not only was the East Londoner untested, he would have to fight the WBC welterweight champion in a bull ring in his adopted home town in front of 60,000 fanatical supporters.
Stracey was floored in the opening round, peeled himself off the canvas and went on to stop a badly disfigured Napoles in the sixth.
Napoles never fought again John, on the other hand, went on to successfully defend his belt the following year, with a stoppage victory over the accomplished Hedgemon Lewis, before losing his title in defense number two, to the world renowned .
Stracey parted acrimoniously from his manager Lawless, and said he no longer wanted to be promoted by Duff and his partners. In May 1978, he beat Georges Warusfel of France, on a ninth-round stoppage, and never boxed again. He was only 27
With both his popularity and reputation very much intact today, John is much in demand as an after dinner speaker. With his quick wit and sense of humour, combined with his vast knowledge of the fight game - both past and current, he has become a natural at public speaking. John also played a major part in the success of the film ‘The Krays’ He acted as boxer trainer for Gary and Martin Kemp for a full six months before going on to choreography the boxing scenes, which were widely acclaimed as the most authentic fight scenes used in British film. John Stracey is also an accomplished vocalist.
John H Stracey - Was one of the main personalities behind 'Night of Champions' Cardiff 2010.
He had a career record of 45 wins, 5 losses and 1 draw, with 37 knockouts.