JOHN.H.STRACEY

MIND OVER MAT­TER

Fiji Sun - - Ajay Amrit - AJAY AM­RIT Edited by Filipe Naigulevu The writer is a Fiji Sun colum­nist. Feed­back: ajay@carv­ing­dream.com

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.

Early be­gin­nings

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.

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