Today is the seventy first birthday of former WBC welterweight champion John H Stracey, who achieved the greatest away from home victory of a British boxer, by coming to the Bullring in Mexico City and defeating the legendary Jose “Mantequilla” Napolis on December 6th 1975.
In so doing, John H became Jose Sulaiman`s first champion, as Don Jose was unanimously elected President of the World Boxing Council, just one day earlier in Tunis.
Few with the notable exception of John H himself and his Manager Terry Lawless thought he could fulfil such a staggering accomplishment. John climbed up into the ring and then had rather a long wait, until Jose Napolis appeared and glided through the ropes. John then went straight over and shook hands with him, displaying great sportsmanship, much to the delight and appreciation of the hometown fans.
So called pundits “Wisely” nodded when Jose canvassed John with a left right combination in round one. Undeterred, John got up and fought on and his heart out. Referee Octavio Meyran stopped the contest in round six and John H was the champion of the world! It was deja vu because John had competed for England in the 1968 Olympic Games, remembering to keep his hat on, when baskets of pidgeons were released from their baskets fluttering high into a deep blue sky!
In a celebration lunch following his championship triumph in the Maria Isabel Sheraton John H, who was a hungry fighter, glanced at the menu and ordered spaghetti bolonesa. But his Dad put an immediate stop to that fancy , insisting it would be steak… well done!
Previously Dad got some presentation cards printed in England, namely: John H Stracey, giving a nod to his middle name Henry. The late great newspaper scribe and brilliant broadcaster Reg Gutteridge spotted this and included it in a prominent newspaper article, so from that day to this…it`s stuck!
John H was no stranger to being the away from home fighter. He won the European welterweight crown by stopping Roger Menetrey at the Stade de Roland Garros, Paris.
There`s a photo of John H and Hedgemon Lewis, who challenged for his WBC title, and Hedgemon was KO`d in ten rounds. The both of them, were arm in arm and smiling. You could be mistaken for thinking it was years after the clash. But in fact, it was on the very day of the fight. Both shook hands, hugged and wished each other luck that night!
John`s record is fifty-one fights, with forty-five victories including thirty-seven KO`s, five losses and one draw. He kept his promise to his Mum to retire at twenty-seven.
Gifted with a magnificent singing voice, John H is a star of the WBC Convention Entertainment Night and many other events. John H is also a witty and popular after dinner speaker. He has raised huge amounts of money for charity and is The Pride of Bethnal Green, as well as the World Boxing Council.
Happy Birthday John H.