This July, a film will begin shooting, the story to tell the tale of former WBA heavyweight champ Gerrie Coetzee’s life in and out of the ring. The 65 years old South African, who had a brief reign in 1983/84 – beating Michael Dokes to take the WBA belt, losing it to Greg Page in hugely controversial fashion – is the first African fighter to box for, and win, a world heavyweight title.
According to a news story from Sowetan Live, Australian actor, Liam Hemsworth will play the part of Coetzee. Mike Weaver, who defeated Coetzee in a memorable fight, will also appear in the film. Coetzee told Sowetan Live that Charlize Theron was in the frame to play his wife in the movie but priced herself out – “she wanted a lot of money, $15 million,” Coetzee said.
Coetzee had an exciting and lively up and down ring career. A staunch fighter against apartheid, Coetzee burst onto the world stage with a stunning first-round KO of former heavyweight champ Leon Spinks, who in his previous two fights had gone 1-1 with Muhammad Ali. The June 1979 win earned Coetzee a shot at the vacant WBA belt, but Coetzee, aged 24, lost a 15 round decision to John Tate. One year later, Coetzee was stopped in the 13th round by Weaver, the fight an action-packed affair.
Coetzee kept on trying, though, and after two setbacks that were looked at as robberies in the opinion of many – Coetzee losing a decision to Renaldo Snipes and then being held to a draw by Pinklon Thomas – the 28-year-old smashed Michael Dokes to take the WBA belt. Coetzee was a world champion at the third attempt.
His reign was short-lived, but Coetzee did not lose his belt on fair terms. Facing Greg Page in his first defense, this over 14 months after the Dokes win (Coetzee unable to land a massive fight with Larry Holmes), Coetzee was stopped in the eighth round. However, the eighth round, famously, overran; Coetzee being stopped at a time when he should have been sat on his stool in the corner.
Coetzee fought on sporadically, losing to Frank Bruno in 1986 and the retiring, only to make comebacks in 1993 and 1997. Coetzee’s final fight was a stoppage loss to former 160/168/175 pound champ Iran Barkley.
Famous for his “Bionic hand” – Coetzee’s right hand surgically repaired and inserted with various corrective items – this former WBA heavyweight champ’s life and times should make for quite an exciting film.