If he had lived, if he had not succumbed to liver cancer in this month back in 2012, Michael Dokes would have turned 61 a few days ago (August 10). A former heavyweight champ, of the WBA variety, Dokes reigning for a short time during that perversely celebrated and well-documented ‘Lost Generation of Heavyweights,’ “Dynamite” sure was a fighter, and a man, who could go off with a bang at any given time.
A naturally gifted boxer with amazing speed of hand, Dokes enjoyed an eventful amateur career, most of it successful. Dokes was a Golden Gloves champ, an AAU champ, and the teenager boxed giants such as Muhammad Ali, in an exhibition, and Teofilo Stevenson, in the 1975 Pan Am Games – losing a 3-2 decision to the man many say was the finest amateur heavyweight boxer ever.
Dokes loved fame, he loved money and he had a flamboyant way as he sought to entertain the crowds as he went pro in search of his fortune. The money did come in soon enough – at one point in his career, Dokes boasted of having taken a bath in a tub filled with over $20,000 worth of fine champagne – and Dokes left his mark on the fans; women especially. Dokes, who wore pink mink coats, threw expensive flowers to the women who perched at ringside for his fights.
Winning the WBA strap in a controversial blur, halting a none too hurt Mike Weaver in around a minute flat in 1982, Dokes’ reign proved equally brief. The return with “Hercules” saw the two men fight the full 15 rounds, Dokes again being the beneficiary of some debatable officiating, this time from the judges, who scored the fight level. By now heavily into drugs and alcohol, an out of shape Dokes was badly beaten by Gerrie Coetzee in his next fight, losing the title via tenth-round stoppage.
Shortly after the loss to the South African, stories circulated that confirmed Dokes has taken a lot of cocaine just 48 hours before the fight. There was worse to come. Old-timer Marty Cohen, who put his faith in Dokes and invested heavily in him, believing the former champ had cleaned up his act and was serious about trying to reclaim past glories, was initially rewarded for his belief: Dokes stringing together some good wins and keeping clean.
It wouldn’t last. A heroic but losing effort against new emerging star Evander Holyfield, in a 1989 Fight Of The Year candidate, if not winner, was followed by a near decapitation at the hands of the lethal (when granted a stationary, accommodating target) Razor Ruddock. Dokes was done and he was back on the gear. Cohen knew it: “You can always tell,” he said, “by the way they rub their nose all the time.”
Dokes carried on, being starched in a round by new king Riddick Bowe in 1993. This was Dokes’ last chance at anything big, but the one-time ultra-promising boxer would produce some truly sickening violence outside of the ring. Sadly off the rails completely, Dokes so severely beat his girlfriend in 1998 that he broke her nose and jaw and was convicted of attempted murder. It was horrific, and to this day many people think of this chilling episode whenever Dokes’ name is mentioned; not anything he accomplished in the ring (Dokes being jailed for ten years, being released on parole in 2008).
Indeed, seldom, if ever, has there been a more disgraceful and complete fall from grace.
Dokes: 1958 to 2012. Final Ring Record: 53-6-2(34).