In sad news, it has been reported how Curtis Cokes passed away yesterday at the age of 82. The world welterweight champion from 1966 to 1969, Cokes was a superbly skilled counter-puncher who very much lived by the Sweet Science code of “hit and not get hit.” Cokes, who lived a very fulfilled and distinguished life, passed away due to heart failure.
When explaining his approach in the ring – one that saw him win 62 of his 80 listed bro bouts – Cokes often said how “the name of the sport is boxing, not fighting.” Cokes was a smart technician who enjoyed practicing the art of hitting and taking zero, or close to it, in return.
Due to racial segregation, Cokes, born in June of 1937, was not allowed to fight in Golden Gloves tournaments. Naturally athletic and excelling in both basketball and baseball, Cokes went pro in March of 1958. A proud representative of Dallas, Texas, Cokes boxed many of his fights at home. Cokes lost a few matches on the way up, by decision, as well as boxing a couple of draws. Cokes won on points over Luis Rodriguez in 1961, losing the return, also by decision, four months later. Yet as a tribute piece from The Dallas Morning News reports, Rodriguez’ trainer, the legendary Angelo Dundee, was so impressed by Cokes’ ability, he asked him to come to Miami and allow him to be his trainer. Cokes declined, staying in Dallas.
After a long slog that saw him drop three more decisions and suffer a rare stoppage defeat (to Stanley Hayward who got the 4th round TKO in May of 1964), Cokes finally got a world title shot. Wins over Billy Collins and Rodriguez in a third fight, saw Cokes get a shot at Manuel Gonzalez. Fighting in New Orleans in August of 1966, Cokes defeated Gonzalez via 15 round decision to take the WBA and lineal welterweight titles. A November 1966 points win over Jean Josselin, this fight held in Dallas, saw Cokes add the WBC belt to the WBA title had retained.
Cokes, the first fighter from Dallas to win a world title, fought several non-tile bouts, as well as retaining the undisputed title four times. Two stoppage defeats to Jose Napoles, both matches taking place in 1969, just two months apart, saw Cokes’ reign come to an end. Napoles stopped him both times; Cokes’ eye busted shut in the first fight. Cokes had 11 more matches before retiring, going 7-3-1 and then hanging them up in late 1972.
After quitting the ring, Cokes became an exceptional trainer, and he also appeared in the superb boxing film “Fat City.” Seemingly respected and applauded by every single person who was lucky enough to meet him, Curtis Cokes will be sadly missed.
Curtis Cokes: 62-14-4(30). 1937 to 2020.