Gerrie Coetzee, a hard-hitting South African who won a share of the heavyweight championship in 1983 when he knocked out Michael “Dynamite” Dokes, died Thursday after a short battle with cancer. His daughter, Lana, confirmed his death at age 67.
Coetzee, who was 33-6-1 with 21 knockouts in a career that spanned from 1974 to 1997, had the high point of his career in Richfield, Ohio on September 23, 1983, when he knocked out Dokes at the end of the 10th round. Coetzee had dropped Dokes in the fifth, then finished him with two rights in the 10th.
Coetzee said after the fight that he injured his hand and probably wouldn’t have been able to use his right in the last five rounds had the fight continued. During his career, Coetzee has undergone a staggering 23 hand surgeries.
Coetzee hit a stunned Dokes with back-to-back straight right hands. Dokes face down after the second shot, but grabbed a rope. As Coetzee headed for a neutral corner, he prayed as referee Tony Perez sounded the count.
As Dokes struggled to get up, Coetzee thought to himself, “It’s broken again.” As Dokes gripped the rope, Coetzee said he was praying, “Please God don’t let him get up.” By this point, he had already had 15 hand surgeries and felt he had no chance in many fights he had lost due to his many surgeries.
Coetzee lost the title to Greg Page in his first defense on December 1, 1984 and never held the belt again. But Coetzee had fought most of the big names of his day. He made his debut just six weeks before Muhammad Ali stunned George Foreman to win the title, and retired in 1997 when Evander Holyfield was champion.
Coetzee first fought for the WBA title in 1979 when he lost a 15-round decision to “Big” John Tate. He was knocked out on the 13th of his second title bid by Mike Weaver on October 25, 1980. After losing the title to Page, he never fought for a World Championship again.
But Coetzee fought many of the big names of the 1970s and 1980s in an era loaded with formidable heavyweights. In addition to Dokes, Tate, Weaver and Page, he has also met former heavyweight champions Leon Spinks, Pinklon Thomas and Frank Bruno in non-title fights.
Coetzee retired after losing to Bruno in 1986 and was absent from the sport for over seven full years. He returned in 1993 and had four fights, ending with a TKO loss to Iran Barkley in 1997.
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