MIND OVER MATTER
Stracey turned professional in September 17, 1969 when he was still 18 years old and in his first fight he knocked out seasoned fighter Santos Martins in two rounds.
John. H. Stracey was born in Bethnal Green UK on September 22, 1950.
Stracey was from a typical working class family with good values and acumen for honesty and hard work. This foundation served him well as he became an amateur boxer firstly during his school years and continuing during his teenage years. Stracey turned professional in September 17, 1969 when he was still 18 years old and in his first fight he knocked out seasoned fighter Santos Martins in two rounds.
This led to him to winning his first twelve fights, eleven by knockout. Now came the time to test the mettle of this young man with dynamite in both fists. He went on undefeated for 23 fights until he was outpointed in his 24th fight by undefeated Marshall Butler.
Undeterred, this defeat actually instilled a solid resolve for Stracey to learn from his mistakes and come back stronger. As is the case for most undefeated fighters when they face defeat for the first time it is more a mental test than a physical test to see if they can learn from this. Stracey learned from this and continued on his quest for a shot at the World Welterweight Championship which was held by long time champion Jose Napoles. After another four good wins, Stracey was beginning to look like a real contender when he was matched against Arthur Butler for the British Welterweight Title, this time Stracey was winning well when he was con- troversially disqualified in the seventh round of a fight he was winning easily. Once again, the strong mental attitude of Stracey was tested but he took the defeat well and wanted to avenge the loss. Stracey went on to win another five fights in a row before getting a chance to seek revenge on Arthur Butler. This time with a very cool and calculating display he knocked out Butler in the fourth round. Stracey won another three fights in a row but once again came unstuck with a loss to American Cubby Jackson and once again he came back from defeat to win the European Welterweight Title as he waited finally for his World Title Fight.
World title shot
After seven years as a professional fighter, 47 professional fights and winning the British Welterweight title, then winning the European Welterweight title, Stracey was given his World title shot. As usual nothing was given easily to Stracey and he was told to fly out to Mexico and fight the longtime champion in his home town of Mexico City. Jose Napoles was a fine World Welterweight Champion and was champion for seven
years, it was an uphill struggle from the day Stracey arrived in Mexico to try and lift the title from the home town favourite.
Regardless of this, Stracey was expecting a hard time both mentally and physically as he descended into the searing heat of Mexico.
The first hostile encounter happened after the fighter’s press conference when one of Napoles fans reached across and shook Stracey’s hand and then continued to try and damage his hand with a vice like grip refusing to let go, luckily there was no damage and the fight would continue. The next altercation happened as Stracey was in the final days of preparation for the big fight and one of his hired Mexican sparring partners brutally head butted him and Stracey was immediately told to stop training, but he asked to continue regardless of getting cut and gave him a boxing lesson, one that his sparring partner would not forget for trying to injure him.
The ‘Big Day’
Finally, the big day had arrived and the fight was to take place in front 40,000 screaming fans and all were backing the champion Napoles.
The last insult to injury for Stracey was that upon entering the ring with a good sweat built-up and ready for battle, he was made to wait for over 10 minutes before the champion arrived, but once again his mental strength kicked into action as he waited patiently for his opponent. Stracey was getting his chance to make history by trying to dethrone this brilliant champion in his home town.
The bout started but disaster struck in the first round when Stracey was knocked down with a superb left hook from the champion, the crowd went wild screaming for Napoles to end it. Stracey tried to remain cool, calm and composed as his powers of recovery were tested. Stracey survived the round and with his mental toughness made his way back into the fight even dropping the champion in the third round. He continued to maul and beat the champion to the punch round after round and was now getting on top of Napoles big time. By the sixth round Stracey was giving the champion a beating and the fight was mercifully stopped by the referee and finally Stracey was World Welterweight Champion of the World and as they say the rest is history.
This goes to prove that with a firm belief and mental strength you can always overcome the odds.
John H Stracey in 1976.
Ajay Amrit (left), with John H Stracey.