Gerrie Coetzee vs. Michael Dokes

Gerrie Coetzee vs. Michael Dokes

The Gerrie Coetzee vs. Michael Dokes fight was a historically important boxing bout that took place on September 23, 1983, in Akron, Ohio. The fight was for Dokes' WBA world Heavyweight title.

Pre fight details

Michael Dokes had been the WBA's world Heavyweight champion since December 10, 1982, when referee Joey Curtis stopped his fight with Mike Weaver in the first round. It was a controversial stoppage: Weaver and his management team, led by Hector "the Toe" Carlson, formally filed a complaint to the WBA's investigation committee, based on their opinion that Weaver was in condition to keep fighting when the fight was halted. Curtis declared that he had been impacted by Duk Koo Kim's death three weeks before, and a rematch was ordered. On May 20, 1983, Dokes and Weaver fought to a fifteen round draw (tie), with Dokes keeping the world title.

Gerrie Coetzee, meanwhile, had been a contender for many years, losing in previous title tries to Weaver and to John Tate. He had also lost a ten round split decision to Renaldo Snipes in a fight where he had sent Snipes down in round one.

While the match-up itself could have been as racially provoking as 1982's Larry Holmes vs. Gerry Cooney fight, it was not. Most boxing fans and critics considered Holmes the legitimate world Heavyweight champion, and there were different views concerning the Black versus White factor on this fight.

But, there was one fact that did not allow for the fight's promotional stage to take on a racial tune as did Holmes-Cooney one year before: Coetzee was openly opposed to Apartheid, publicly suggesting that he was not racist. As a matter of a fact, it is believed that most South African Blacks backed Coetzee, even as his two previous world championship attempts, held in South Africa, were against Tate and Weaver, who were Blacks as well.

One fact that was somewhat important for the fight to gain public interest was that, while not considered a "White hope", like Cooney had been before his fight with Holmes, Coetzee would be attempting to become the first White world Heavyweight champion since 1960, when Ingemar Johansson reigned after defeating Floyd Patterson.

The bout

The fight came off on September 23, 1983, at Richfield Coliseum, in Dokes' hometown of Akron, Ohio. It was the last bout in an undercard that included an Azumah Nelson knockout victory in two rounds over Puerto Rico's Alberto Collazo, Jeff Malcolm's ten round decision win over future Aaron Pryor conqueror Bobby Joe Young, a fight between two former Holmes challengers in which Alfredo Evangelista outpointed Snipes over ten rounds, and future world champion Tim Witherspoon's first round knockout win over fellow former Weaver challenger James Tillis. Promoted by Don King promotions, the main event was televised in the United States on HBO Boxing.

Dokes entered the ring by throwing flowers and blowing kisses to the ladies present at the event. Coetzee, by contrast, had a more timid entrance. For the first four rounds, Dokes grabbed a lead as he combined head and body shots to hit Coetzee. In the fifth, however, things changed when Coetzee suddenly connected with a right hand to Dokes' jaw, sending the champion to the canvas on one knee.

After that, Coetzee gained confidence and Dokes began to back periodically until the tenth round, when Coetzee struck again, connecting with another right that sent Dokes to the canvas again, this time with his body rolling until he could grab one of the ring's ropes with his right hand glove. Dokes was not able to get up, and Coetzee became the first White boxer in 23 years to win a world Heavyweight title, and the first African ever to win the world Heavyweight title.

The aftermatch

Coetzee broke his right hand with the same punch that he knocked Dokes out with. Five days later, he underwent surgery in New York city, after which he received a hero's welcome in Johannesburg.

He was not able to fight for a year and a half after winning the title. He was scheduled to have a unification bout with deposed WBC champion Holmes, who had been accepted as champion by the IBF after the WBC stripped him, but Coetzee re-injured his right hand during training for the highly anticipated unification bout, forcing it to be cancelled. Holmes had been deposed by the WBC for failing to defend his title against Greg Page, who ultimately went on to beat Coetzee in Coetzee's first defense, on December 1, 1984, by an eighth round knockout to win the WBA world title. In what can perhaps be considered an irony, Coetzee did not win any of his three world title fights held at his homecountry, winning the only one that he held abroad.

Dokes also faced trouble after the fight, in his case, with drugs. He returned to boxing on March 1985, fighting Randall Cobb in Las Vegas. Dokes had several comebacks and was on the verge of becoming world Heavyweight champion again a couple of times, notably during the late 1980s and the early 1990s. His fight with Evander Holyfield was named by Ring Magazine as the best "Heavyweight fight of the 1980s". In 1993, he had a chance at recovering the WBA world championship, (and gain the IBF world title on the process) but he was knocked out in the first round by Riddick Bowe, at RFK Stadium, in Washington, D.C.. Dokes has since been in jail for various reasons.

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