To some people, Michal Dokes looked set for greatness. Possessing one of the fastest pair of hands the heavyweight division had seen in years, “Dynamite” Dokes was a skilled boxer who carried power as well as speed.
The biggest battle Dokes had during his career was his love of the high life, of the partying, the drinking, and the drug taking. It all added up to too much on this day back in 1983, when Dokes, defending his WBA heavyweight title against Gerrie Coetzee, was smashed to upset defeat.
The fight took place at The Richfield Coliseum in Ohio, and challenger Coetzee was a pretty big underdog. The South African with the “Bionic Hand,” this his right hand, had failed in two previous world title attempts, with him losing a decision against John Tate and with Coetzee being stopped late by Mike Weaver. Dokes had shocked Weaver via first round stoppage to take the belt, the quick win seen as hugely controversial. The return saw Dokes hold onto the title courtesy of a draw, this a fight plenty of folks felt Weaver had won.
Now, having trained on “a diet of Jack Daniels and cocaine,” as Dokes would later tell Sports Illustrated, the man with so much natural talent was to be quite brutally relieved of both his title and his unbeaten record.
Coetzee, a 5/1 underdog, struggled with Dokes’ speed and movement in the early rounds but, by the fifth, Coetzee was taking over. Dokes, out of shape and, as we found out later, not having lived the life of a dedicated fighter, was running on empty. Taking shots to the head, Dokes was downed in the fifth and he would go on to take a beating until the nasty finish.
We will never know how much Dokes was truly aware of what was happening in the fight, so strung out he had been for three days straight prior to the fight, and it is likely Dokes, exhausted, was fighting purely on instinct. In the tenth round, Coetzee’s powerful but also vulnerable right hand (Coetzee had had numerous ops on the hand, and he would require more surgery after the Dokes fight) blasted the defending champ to the mat, face-first. Thoroughly beaten, Dokes was counted out at the 3:08 mark of the round, with there being no being saved by the bell.
Dokes fought on and, for a time he cleaned up his act and trained hard, but he was never again a champion. Coetzee, who had to have over a year out of the ring after his title-winning effort, wanted to fight “real” champ Larry Holmes, yet the fight never happened, Holmes not wishing to go to South Africa, where Apartheid troubles were rife (Gerrie himself was a courageously outspoken foe of Apartheid).
Dokes died back in August of 2012, this from liver cancer. He was just 54 years old. Coetzee passed away in January of this year, from lung cancer. He was 67.
On this day 40 years ago, Coetzee made a good fighter pay the price for living a bad life. Who knows how much more Dokes might have gone on to achieve had he managed to stay away from drugs and alcohol?