In sad news, it has been reported that South Africa’s Gerrie Coetzee, the former WBA heavyweight champion, has passed away at age 67. Website The South African broke the sad news. Apparently, Gerrie battled a long illness before dying earlier today. Our condolences go out to Gerrie’s family and friends at this time.
The news has hit Coetzee fans hard, and there was a movie on his life in the works, one that will hopefully still get finished and then released.
News reported how Coetzee would get the silver screen treatment soon; a film of his life having began shooting in South Africa last year, the film then set to be finished in the US; first in Washington DC and then in Ohio. It was in Ohio, at The Richmond Coliseum, that Coetzee won a world title at the third time of asking; beating Michael Dokes in what was Ring Magazine’s Upset of the Year. The movie, which had a working title of “Against All Odds,” will largely focus on Coetzee becoming heavyweight champ. Though he reigned for just a relatively short amount of time, what Coetzee did was an odds-defying achievement.
Coetzee suffered from bad hands – his famous “Bionic Right” having several metal pins put in it during his career – and he also had to battle Apartheid problems.
Coetzee, who really did live a fascinating life, went pro in September of 1974, and he defeated names like Leon Spinks, Kallie Knoetze, Scott LeDoux, and James Tillis. The big win over Dokes came after Coetzee had been beaten by John Tate and Mike Weaver in previous title challenges. Today, Coetzee, who stopped an exhausted Dokes in the tenth round, says he was “unbeatable that night.”
“I was at my very best for Dokes. No one would have beaten me on that night,” Gerrie said at the press conference to promote the film on his life, the presser attended by Muhammad Ali’s former wife Dr. Khalilah Camacho Ali. “I had overtrained for Tate and Weaver.”
Coetzee lost the WBA title in his first defence, this when he was controversially stopped by Greg Page – the fateful eighth round overrunning, Coetzee stopped at a time when he should have been sat on his stool – and he never again challenged for a major title.
Oddly enough, in his very last fight, which took place in June of 1997, this the second fight in a comeback Gerrie had started in January of that year, a 42-year-old Coetzee was stopped by Iran Barkley. Barkley had moved up to heavyweight, and he walked away with something called the World Boxing Board heavyweight title with the win.
Coetzee’s story is, of course, more than worthy of being told, of being remembered, and hopefully, the film will still come out. Gerrie made a piece of boxing history, he fought the best, and he will be missed.