October 15, 2016
October 15, 2016
John H. Stracey

Action Images/Sporting Pictures

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BEST I SPARRED

“JOE TETTEH. A light-welterweight and the Commonwealth champion, from Ghana. He was so clever. He taught me small moves, like how to put my arm up after throwing a jab so as not to get caught. At times he would stop me and tell me I wasn’t doing this or that. [Stracey’s trainer Terry] Lawless told me to take it all in, what he was teaching me. And they were good lessons. I also sparred Ken Buchanan and I also sparred Napoles, three years before I fought him.”

MY WORST NIGHT

“CARLOS PALOMINO [l rsf 12]. If I’d had a rest and come in more refreshed, that might have made a big difference. I really should’ve had a break – I mean, three world title fights in six months is ridiculous. Palomino never really hurt me, but he caught me downstairs; he was a good body puncher, no doubt. But he never hurt me to the jaw. [Hedgemon] Lewis was quicker, and tougher. But I was in need of a rest and at the time that was unfortunately never going to happen.”

MY GREATEST NIGHT

“HAS to be the win [rsf 6] over Jose Napoles in 1975, which was actually in the late afternoon! That fight is still very vivid in the mind, especially the first-round knockdown [against me]. Not many gave me a chance to win, and to beat Napoles, especially in his own city of Mexico, was special. I was lucky to have fought one of the all-time greats, who had been there, done everything and had the T-shirt. Napoles was a great boxer, one of the very best in history, without a shadow of a doubt.”

HARDEST PUNCHER

“ERNIE LOPEZ [w rsf 7 in 1974]. He had a tough dig with his right hand. He hit me and it went right down to my knees. After taking that punch, in the fifth round, I knew I had to stay away from his right. He got a cut eye and I stopped him – I think I was winning anyway. After the fight, the referee, Harry Gibbs, said to me, ‘You earned your spurs tonight.’ Meaning I was good enough to go far.”

MY TOUGHEST NIGHT

“HEDGEMON LEWIS [first title defence, rsf 10 for Stracey]. He never stopped coming on and was one of the toughest fighters. He’d fought for the title four times and had been in with Napoles and Carlos Palomino. He got a [non-title] draw with Palomino and a lot of people thought he’d won. He was quick and every round you thought you’d stop him, he came back. The only reason I beat him was because I was very, very fit. He was a tough nut to crack. I was relentless in that fight.”

HARDEST PART OF RETIREMENT

“NOTHING. I had 130 amateur and 51 pro fights – I think that’s enough. I was actually looking forward to retiring by that time. I was never one for comebacks. I was quite happy enough with what I did. After I retired, after beating a guy named Georges Warusfel in 1978, people thought I might come back. But no. I felt I’d had enough. Today, I do all sorts [including after-dinner speaking]. It’s good to do a lot of things and to keep busy.”