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ON 4 May 1973 Frankie Lucas of Croydon-based Sir Philip Game ABC defeated Liverpool’s Carl Speare in that year’s ABA Middleweight Final at the Empire Pool, Wembley. This was Lucas’ second straight ABA championship win, having defeated another Liverpudlian, Tony Byrne, in 1972. Being only 20 years old at the time of his win over Speare, Lucas seemed destined for big things.
Lucas was a known big puncher, but he was also prone to cuts and when he traveled to Belgrade early next month to compete in the European Championships, BN was somewhat hesitant in his prediction that he could do well: “Lucas is particularly effective with a big over the top, but I would be a bit more optimistic about his chances if he went back to his old style of natural aggression as he seems to be a little too focused on sharpening his defense these days.” Lucas lost in the quarterfinals to eventual winner, Russian Vyacheslav Lemechev, his good form kept him number one in BN’s amateur ratings throughout the year and looked set to be a shoe-in for the Commonwealth Games of 1974, in which he hoped to win the gold for England.
The ABA dropped a bombshell in October 1973 when they chose Speare to the Games team and the Croydon man was, understandably, furious. In a BN article titled ‘Lucas Hops Crazy About Games Stupid’, Frankie said, “I’m just too choked up to think about what to do in the future. I have my sights set on winning the gold medal in Christchurch. I’ve had offers to turn pro, but I held back because I wanted to win the Commonwealth title. Now they’re doing this to me and after they also let me out of the Olympic team last year, I’m starting to think someone doesn’t like me.”
He soon made up his mind. Since he was born in St. Vincent, he contacted that federation to ask if he could box for them at the games, and they took him in. So the 1974 Commonwealth Games middleweight tournament was going to have some spice and some spice, and it was watched with great interest. Speare continued to impress for England. He won three of four international appearances for England that season and was part of a very strong English team that also included Billy Knight, Robbie Davies, Mickey Abrams and Pat Cowdell.
Both boys won their first two matches during the matches and then were pitted against each other in the semifinals, with the loser taking home a bronze medal. I can remember the excitement generated by this scrap when the games were properly televised. Lucas and Speare fought another hard, close match, with national team manager Kevin Hickey stating that “their ABA final was close, the decision to pick Speare over Lucas was close, and the semi-final could have gone either way, and Frank got it”. Lucas must have felt a great sense of satisfaction, because while he felt no enmity towards his opponent, he had a big score to settle with the authorities.
Now all he had to do was win the final. He came up against a Zambian, Julius Luipa, who had performed extremely well and was the slight favourite. None of this mattered to Frankie who, after being knocked out in the first round, took the initiative in the second and kicked his rival into the ground before knocking him out for good with a big right hook.
Both Lucas and Speare turned pro in 1974 and while their paths never crossed within the paid ranks, they each had respectable careers. Lucas contested the British Middleweight title twice, losing to two of the best, Kevin Finnegan and Alan Minter.
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