Gerrie Coetzee, a hard-punching South African who won a share of the heavyweight championship in 1983 when he knocked out Michael “Dynamite” Dokes, died Thursday following a short battle with cancer. His daughter, Lana, confirmed his death at 67.
Coetzee, who was 33-6-1 with 21 knockouts in a career that ran from 1974 through 1997, had his career highlight in Richfield, Ohio, on Sept. 23, 1983, when he knocked Dokes out late in the 10th round. Coetzee had dropped Dokes in the fifth, and then finished him with two rights in the 10th.
Coetzee said after the fight he had a hand injury and probably would not have been able to use his right over the final five rounds had the fight continued. In his career, Coetzee underwent a staggering 23 hand surgeries.
Coetzee hit a stunned Dokes with back-to-back straight right hands. Dokes when down face first after the second shot, but grabbed a rope. As Coetzee went to a neutral corner, he prayed as referee Tony Perez tolled the count.
As Dokes struggled to get to his feet, Coetzee said to himself, “It’s broken again.” As Dokes grabbed at the rope, Coetzee said he prayed, “Please, God, don’t let him get up.” At that stage, he already had had 15 hand surgeries and felt he didn’t have a chance in many of the fights he’d lost because of his numerous surgeries.
Coetzee lost the title to Greg Page in his first defense on Dec. 1, 1984, and never held the belt again. But Coetzee had fought most of the big names of his era. He debuted only 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 in the 13th of his second bid for the title by Mike Weaver on Oct. 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 terrific heavyweights. In addition to Dokes, Tate, Weaver and Page, he 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 out of the sport for more than seven full years. He came back in 1993 and had four fights, ending with a TKO loss to Iran Barkley in 1997.