CAUSE OF DEATH: South African boxer, Gerrie Coetzee, confirmed dead KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt


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Friday, January 13, 2023

CAUSE OF DEATH: South African boxer, Gerrie Coetzee, confirmed dead

Information reaching Kossyderrickent has it that South African boxer, Gerrie Coetzee, confirmed dead.

Gerrie Coetzee, the former WBA heavyweight titleholder from South Africa, died on Thursday at the age of 67. Lana Coetzee, the daughter of “The Boksburg Bomber” told South African outlet IOL Sport that he had died from “an aggressive form of cancer” that they’d only discovered the previous week.

Coetzee, who first put on boxing gloves at age 7 after his father bribed him with 50 cents to try sparring at a local gym, compiled a professional record of 33-6-1 (21 knockouts) during a career that ran from 1974 to 1997.

The 6’4” fighter rose to prominence amid the height of Apartheid and its accompanying boycotts, which complicated his attempts to break out into the international heavyweight scene. Despite racial tensions at the time, Coetzee was a vocal opponent of the segregation policies, telling The Washington Post in 1979 that “people should be treated on merit and not on race or color.”

After defeating all domestic challengers, earned international recognition in 1979, knocking out Leon Spinks in one round, in what was supposed to be Spinks’ bounce back fight after losing the heavyweight championship to Muhammad Ali.

The win earned Coetzee his first shot at the WBA heavyweight title. He faced “Big” John Tate in his next bout in front of 86,000 fans at Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld Stadium, which was desegregated prior to the bout after calls of a boycott from civil rights leaders. Tate won the fight by unanimous decision. Coetzee received another shot at the belt the following year against Tate conqueror Mike Weaver, but lost by 13th round knockout.

After losing a split decision to Renaldo Snipes in 1981, Coetzee went on a 5-fight unbeaten streak, which included a draw against Pinklon Thomas, before finally winning the WBA title with a tenth round knockout of Michael Dokes. About 1,200 South Africans made the trip to Ohio with Coetzee for the fight, which was named “Upset of the Year” of 1983 by The Ring.

He was said to have been given his prognosis by doctors around a week ago, upon consultation.

He died surrounded by his family.

“A giant has fallen. The Boksburg Bomber has succumbed to illness. Almost exactly 40 years after his great triumph – winning the WBA heavyweight championship by 10th-round KO against Mike Dokes – Gerrie Coetzee has died aged 67. One of my boyhood heroes. RIP,” South African Super Sport Senior Communications Manager, Clinton Berg, wrote in tribute via his verified Twitter page, Thursday.

Coetzee's next fight, in June 1979, was against former world champion Leon Spinks, who had beaten Muhammad Ali. They met in Monte Carlo and after a stunning 123-second knockout, Coetzee was back in the international spotlight. On 20 October 1979, a crowd of more than 77 000 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria saw Coetzee go through 15 dull rounds in losing to American John Tate for the vacant WBA heavyweight belt.

Coetzee needed only 100 seconds to return to contention when, in April 1980, he knocked out Mike Koranicki of the US to set up a match with Mike Weaver for the WBA heavyweight title at Sun City on October 25.

Weaver had won the WBA belt with a sensational 15th-round knockout over John Tate seven months earlier. Against Weaver, Coetzee boxed well in the early rounds. In the eighth, he had Weaver dazed against the ropes but he failed to land the pay-off punch.

Unbeaten Michael Dokes, from Akron, Ohio, won the WBA heavyweight belt when he stopped Weaver in the first round in May 1983. It was a controversial ending when referee Joey Curtis suddenly called the fight off after 63 seconds. The 4 700 spectators chanted “Bull…!” and “Fix! Fix! Fix!”. In a return match six months later, Dokes retained the belt with a 15-round draw.

Facing what many felt was an impossible task, Coetzee, then 28, took a third crack at the WBA title when he challenged Dokes in Cleveland, Ohio on September 23, 1983. Many observers felt the 26-year-old Dokes was better prepared, faster and bigger than Coetzee.

Dokes, knowing the implications of a black American world champion losing to a white South African, had prepared better than ever before.

Coetzee, a 5-to-1 underdog, stunned the boxing world when he knocked out Dokes with two seconds remaining in the tenth round at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio.

Coetzee, the aggressor throughout, dropped Dokes with a right hook in the fifth round and remained in control. He appeared to tire in the tenth before landing a crashing right to the side of Dokes’s head to score a sensational win. It was reported that Coetzee earned $250 000 and Dokes $750 000. However, before Coetzee's triumph he had to negotiate a minefield of controversy. His relationship with promoter Don King led to accusations that King was building up a monopoly and exploited fighters.

The New York Village Voice newspaper alleged that King was rigging the WBA ratings and paying boxers less than stipulated in their contracts. The New York Times said Coetzee’s American helper, Jackie McCoy, had screaming run-ins with Flip Coetzee.

The controversy over television rights was settled only when the SABC agreed to pay R75 000 to show the fight in South Africa.

There were also reports that Dokes had denied rumours that he used cocaine.

Protracted negotiations took place for Coetzee to fight Larry Holmes, the WBC champion, in a unification match in Las Vegas on 8 July 1984. The plans were abandoned because of contractual problems.

Coetzee’s reign as WBA champion was short. Amid more controversy, he lost to Greg Page in his first defence on 1 December 1984 at Sun City.

Ticket prices for the fight were at an all-time high for South Africa – a minimum of R100, and R450 for ringside seats. Page, rated No 6 by the WBA, arrived in Johannesburg eight days earlier than scheduled to prevent efforts by the US anti-apartheid lobby to block his visit.

Coetzee was the overwhelming favourite. Most critics predicted a win inside the distance and Coetzee was the betting favourite at 10 to 1.

However, the champion was knocked out in a sensational finish in the eighth round.

A major row erupted over the duration of the last round. The pay-off punches from Page came at a time when his manager, Janks Morton, was shouting to the time-keeper that the round was over.

Coetzee had been down for the first time after the bell in the sixth round when Page caught him with a right that saw him sink to his knees.

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