Iron fist former heavyweight champion Gerrie Coetzee dies at 67

Richfield, OH - 1983: (LR) Gerrie Coetzee, Michael Dokes boxing at the Coliseum, September 23, 1983. (Photo by Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)

Gerrie Coetzee (L), who fought Michael Dokes in 1983 for the WBA heavyweight title, died Thursday in South Africa at 67. (Photo by Getty Images)

Gerrie Coetzee, the hard-punching South African who won the heavyweight division in 1983 when he knocked out Michael “Dynamite” Dokes, died on Thursday after a short battle with cancer. His daughter Lana confirmed his death at 67.

Coetzee, who was 333-6-1 with 21 strikeouts in a career that ran from 1974 through 1997, ended his career on Sept. 23 in Richfield, Ohio. In 1983, he had a highlight when he knocked out Dokes late in the 10th round. Coetzee had dropped Dokes in the fifth, and then finished him off with two rights in the 10th.

Coetzee said after the fight that he had an injured hand and probably would not have been able to use his right hand in the final five rounds. During his career, Coetzee underwent a staggering 23 hand surgeries.

Coetzee stunned Dokes to hit back-to-back right hands. Dokes dropped face first after the second shot, but grabbed the rope. As Coetzee went to the neutral corner, referee Tony Perez said he prayed for the count.

As Dokes struggled to his feet, Coetzee said to himself: “He’s breaking again.” As Dokes grasped the rope, Coetzee said he prayed“Please, God, let him not rise.” At that stage, he already had 15 ups in hand and felt that he had no chance in the many fights he had lost because of so many ups.

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 era. Just six weeks before Muhammad Ali stunned George Foreman to win the title, he retired in 1997 when Evander Holyfield was the champion.

Coetzee first fought for the WBA title in 1979 when he lost a 15 round decision to “Big” John Tate. He was shot a thirteen second title shot by Mike Weaver on October 25, 1980. He won the title from Dokes in 1983, but, losing to Page, never fought for the world championship again.

But Coetzee fought many of the big names of the 1970s and 1980s in an era loaded with terrifying heavyweights. In addition to Dokes, Tate, Weaver and Page, former heavyweight fighters Leon Spinks, Thomas Pinklon and Frank Bruno also met in non-title fights.

Coetzee retired after losing Bruno in 1986 and has been playing for more than seven consecutive years. He returned in 1993 and had four fights, ending with a TKO loss to Iran Barkley in 1997.

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