Frankie Lucas: The Golden Boy of South London

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Frankie Lucas was a middleweight boxer from Croydon who fought during the 1970s. He had come to the UK from St Vincent as part of the Windrush Generation when he was nine and joined the Sir Phillip Game Boxing Club in Croydon. That was the beginning of a story that is only now being told, writes Michael Holland.

In 1972 Frankie won the ABA title but was strangely overlooked by England selectors for the Olympic Games. In 1973 he won the ABA title again but was once more ignored for the 1974 Commonwealth Games. 

Knowing he was the best boxer in his weight, and now spurred on to prove it, Frankie, with a little help from his friends, went to the Commonwealth Games representing St Vincent and came home victorious, with the gold medal, just as he predicted. 

The tale of the kid from the streets who fights his way to the top has been told many times in films but this boxing legend became the forgotten man instead.

Until, that is, writer Rose Hollingsworth remembered Frankie Lucas and his win at the Commonwealth Games because he used to come into her mum’s shop next to the Noble Art gym and buy his lunch (‘Ox tongue rolls’). Rose was motivated enough to write a short story about him which then turned in to a film – Going for Gold.

Local actors were involved: Bermondsey’s Eddie Webber starred as Frankie’s trainer George Francis. and Christos Liberos from Walworth played the legendary boxing pundit and writer Steve Bunce.

Going for Gold was entered into a number of film festivals in Canada and the US, and went on to win seven awards and special mentions, including one for Best Actor. It was also shown on London Live and will be released on MFM Short Film Channel on YouTube. 

Up until this time Rose did not know Frankie Lucas was alive and had a son, but managed to make contact with his son Michael when she found out. Michael took the film to show his father. 

‘Frankie saw the film and thought that it was a realistic portrayal of his life so he agreed for us to turn the film into play,’ says Rose.

Researching the stage version of Going For Gold, the writer discovered the hard truth about those missing years which followed Frankie Lucas achieving Commonwealth fame. She picks up the story: ‘I found that Frankie was forgotten because he suffered from a mental breakdown and was sectioned… He was in and out of mental health institutions for the next thirty years, believing the devil lived in his left hand, so he closed it shut never to open it again.’ Rose pauses to let that sink in. It does. The author continues: ‘After a while, because no one saw him, people presumed him dead. But he was in contact with his son.’

They heard that Lucas, sadly, was now recovering from cancer and in a care home in Kentish Town being looked after by his son. ‘We were lucky enough to visit him on a few occasions, remembers Rose. ‘He gave us a list of people to interview: Clinton MacKenzie, who is providing boxing coaching for the actors at his boxing gym in Denmark Hill; John Conteh, Winston MacKenzie, Michael Bovell, Gene Bovell, Ken Rimmington, Bruce Baker, Tony Chapman…’

So now the hard work began. ‘We spent three months researching and interviewing all these people and then set about writing the play about Frankie’s life.’

How far along with the project are you now? ‘The play is currently in rehearsals in Camberwell and will preview at the Brighton Fringe on May 29/30th May before transferring to the Chelsea Theatre on 5/6/7/8th June. It is very exciting.’

With no arts funding the team are trying to raise funds for the production and have already attracted some attention from the media and boxing world, who are themselves just hearing the sad truth about the boxer who was once so admired. Some offering their help.

‘The Sun’s chief boxing correspondent Colin Hart is interviewing us, says Rose excitedly. ‘and Steve Bunce is gonna do a podcast for his BBC show, highlighting Frankie’s story and the journey of the play.’ 

But that is not all: ‘We hope, after these first six performances, to take the show on tour and have a four-week London run.’

This is the recognition that Frankie Lucas, twice ABA Champion and Commonwealth Gold medallist, deserves. First in film and now on the stage. 

‘Alas,’ begins Rose, ‘Frankie passed away on 8th April 2023, just weeks away from the Brighton premier. He was suffering from terminal cancer and although his prognosis was just two months left to live, he fought on for another fourteen to hear the play and know that his story and his life was being honoured… It is very sad he will not be around to see it.’

However, this tragic tale will be a catalyst for a lot of good: ‘We have partnered with Health Perks who deliver Mental Health First Aiders training and outreach at boxing clubs, and we are also fundraising for the Ringside Charity Trust who help retired boxers in need and are working to open a care home specifically for retired boxers who need help.’

This is not just a boxing story, this is much more than that.

The play is being produced by Lisa Lintott, Frank Skully and Jazz Lintott. It stars Jazz Lintott, Frankie Wilson (The Gold) Daniel Francis Swaby (Small Axe) Cyril Blake and Marissa Joseph, and will be directed by Betsy Robertson and Seb Senior.

The Rotunda Theatre, Regency Square, Brighton, BN1 2FG 29th – 30th May. Admission: £10.


Chelsea Theatre, 7, World’s End Place, London SW10 0DR from 5th – 8th June. Times 7.30pm. Admission: £15.



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