ON May 4 1973 Frankie Lucas of the Croydon-based Sir Philip Game ABC beat Carl Speare of Liverpool in that year’s ABA middleweight final at the Empire Pool, Wembley. This was Lucas’ second straight ABA championship victory, having beaten another Liverpudlian, Tony Byrne, in 1972. Still only 20 years old at the time of his triumph over Speare, Lucas seemed destined for great things.
A noted big puncher, Lucas was also prone to cuts and when he travelled to Belgrade early the next month to take part in the European championships, BN was slightly guarded in its prediction that he could do well, “Lucas is particularly effective with a big right over the top, but I would feel a little more optimistic about his chances if he went back to his old style of natural aggression, as these days he seems to be concentrating a little too much on tightening up his defence.” Lucas lost in the quarter-final to the eventual winner, the Russian, Vyacheslav Lemechev. His fine form saw him ranked at number one throughout the year in BN’s amateur ratings and he appeared to be a shoe-in for the 1974 Commonwealth Games, in which he hoped to win the gold for England.
The ABA dropped a bombshell in October 1973 when they picked Speare for the Games team and the Croydon man was, understandably, enraged. In a BN article headed ‘Lucas hopping mad over Games snub’, Frankie stated: “I’m just too choked to think about what to do in the future. I’ve had my heart 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 do this to me and after they left me out of the Olympic team last year too, I’m beginning to think somebody doesn’t like me”.
He soon made up his mind. As he was born in St Vincent, he contacted that federation to enquire whether he could box for them at the games, and they snapped him up. So the 1974 Commonwealth games middleweight tournament would have some zest and some needle, and it was watched with considerable interest. Speare continued to impress for England. He won three out of four international contests for England that season and was part of a very strong England team that also included Billy Knight, Robbie Davies, Mickey Abrams and Pat Cowdell.
Both lads won their opening two contests at the games and were then matched against each other in the semi-final, with the loser picking up a bronze medal. I can remember the excitement generated by this scrap as the games were well televised. Lucas and Speare fought another hard, close contest, with national coach Kevin Hickey stating that “their ABA final was close, the decision to choose Speare instead of 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 as, although he felt no enmity towards his opponent, he had a big score to settle with the authorities.
Now all he had to do was to 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 at all to Frankie who, after being cut in the first round, took the initiative in the second and floored his rival before blasting him out for good with a big right hook.
Both Lucas and Speare turned pro in 1974 and although their paths never crossed within the paid ranks, they each had respectable careers. Lucas twice contested the British middleweight title losing to two of the best, Kevin Finnegan and Alan Minter.