Town’s Olympian was ‘inspiration’ to young boxers
Royal Leamington Spa Amateur Boxing Club coach Ollie O’Neill has paid tribute to Leamington Olympian Willie Stack, who died last week aged 76, calling him a “father figure”.
“He was Leamington born and bred and he loved Leamington,” said O’Neill, who was one of hundreds of youngsters to come under the tutelage of Stack once he had hung up his gloves.
“He was like a father figure to most of the kids.
“He gave up his free time and we had a right good laugh with him.
“He won three ABA titles and was an Olympian, so to have someone like that living around the corner was an inspiration to us.”
Born in 1936, the son of a bareknuckle boxer and younger brother of ABA finalist Michael, Willie was always destined to step into the ring, but few knew how good he would become after joining Leamington Boys’ Club aged just eight.
For a decade he dominated the Midlands region of the Amateur Boxing Association, first as a middleweight and then as a light-heavweight, reaching his peak in 1964, by which time he had claimed four successive British Railways championships and three Midlands ABA titles at middleweight.
Stack went on to win his first ABA national title at Wembley, beating Arbour Youth Club’s A Moore and, but initially missed out on selection to the Olympic Games in Tokyo due to the prohibitive costs involved, a decision that caused uproar.
Compensation of sorts came in the form of call-ups to box for England against Poland and then Great Britain against the Rest of the World and Hungary, where he won all three fights.
After the win in Hungary, one of only two for the GB team, extra money was raised to ensure his passage to Japan.
However, a year-long undefeated spell came to an end courtesy of a second-round stoppage in his first fight against eventual silver medalist Emil Schulz.
Resisting the temptation to turn professional, Willie successfully defended his ABA title the following year.
By 1968, he had moved up to light-heavyweight, landing the Midlands title and reaching the national semi-finals.
Two years later he went all the way to the final, only to be outpointed by Scot John Rafferty.
After retiring in 1976 at the age of 40 having fought more than 300 times, Stack, who worked as a general foundry hand, returned to Leamington Boys’ Club as a coach.
And he was back at Wembley in 1978 in the corner of Eddie Byrne, who became the third Leamington Boys’ Club boxer - after Stack and Randolph Turpin - to be crowned ABA champion.
Stack remained in Leamington all his life and leaves behind a daughter Jennifer, sons Paul and Robert and three grandchildren.
His funeral will take place at St Peter’s Church in Leamington on Wednesday August 28 (12.30pm) followed by a burial at Leamington Cemetery.