How Good Was Gerrie Coetzee? Good Enough To Have A Movie Made About His Life And Career

By James Slater - 01/27/2022 - Comments

Former WBA heavyweight champion Gerrie Coetzee will get the silver screen treatment soon; a film of his life set to begin shooting in South Africa over the coming months, 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 is entitled “Against All Odds,” and Coetzee becoming heavyweight champ, even for a relatively short amount of time, really 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. The director of the forthcoming film, Koos Roets, spoke with about some of the tough times Coetzee endured on his way to that big upset win over Dokes and his dynamite in September of 1983.

“This is more than just a boxing story. It is a great human-interest story,” the director told Ring. “Gerrie always had three opponents. There was his opponent in the ring. Then there were his hands. He suffered fractures in 60 percent of his fights. And then there was the sporting boycott. Everywhere they went, there were protests, insults hurled at them and even bottles thrown and attempted attacks by ringsiders. For one fight they even had to sneak him into the venue in the back of a fish delivery truck!”

It really does promise to be quite a fascinating movie. Coetzee, now 66 years of age, 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; 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 (don’t expect this fight to get any coverage in the movie).

Coetzee’s story deserves to be told and hopefully the film will be an enjoyable watch. Playing Coetzee will be South African UFC fighter, Dricus du Plessis. I wonder who will play the part of Dokes? While Don King, who promoted a number of Coetzee’s fights, will surely be portrayed in the flick.