As fight fans know, our great sport lost another one of its heroes this week, this with the sad passing of former WBA heavyweight champion Gerrie Coetzee. Passing at age 67, Coetzee made his mark on the sport, this by fighting through the oppression of apartheid, by upsetting the odds numerous times, and then, at the third time of asking, by winning a portion of the world heavyweight championship.
Coetzee, who stopped Michael Dokes in the 10th round in September of 1983 to become WBA champion, was/is a genuine hero in his homeland of South Africa, while fans all over the world of a certain age remember Gerrie’s action-packed fights and his bravery. Fans also remember Coetzee’s punching power. Coetzee had persistent trouble with his right hand, which required multiple surgeries. Steel rods were placed into the hand and the powerful punch was given its nickname – “The Bionic Hand.”
One man who felt this punch and went on to win the fight with Coetzee is former WBA heavyweight ruler Mike Weaver. It was in his first defence as WBA champ that Weaver met Coetzee, this in Sun City, South Africa in October of 1980. A tough, at times thrilling battle ensued, with “Hercules,” as ex-marine Weaver was known, getting the stoppage win in round 13.
Weaver, in fine health today at age 71, kindly took the time to pay tribute to Gerrie for this web site.
“I was sorry to hear the news of Gerrie’s passing,” Weaver said yesterday. “My memories of him, and of that fight, are that he was very tough and the fight was very tough! It was a hard fight for me. He was a very hard puncher, especially with that ‘Bionic Right.’ The day after the fight, he came to my hotel room and he shook my hand, telling me I was tough and a good world champion. He also said that whenever he hit a person with his right hand the way he hit me, they would be done! He told me to have a safe flight back home and then he said he would have to pay the $5,000 bet he had had on the fight (laughs).”
A classy tribute from one classy champ to another.
Weaver had some career himself of course. Having shocked John Tate to snatch the title in the 15th round, this when miles behind on points, Weaver went on to retain the belt twice after giving us one of the most memorable KO’s of the 1980s. Weaver was then stopped, most controversially, by Michael Dokes and his reign was over.
Weaver is very much the survivor of his era, with Coetzee, Dokes, Tate, Greg Page (who Coetzee lost the WBA title to), Bernardo Mercado, Leon Spinks, and others all gone. Weaver is still here, he is still in great shape, and he remembers all the great fights he had. Including the battle he had with Gerrie Coetzee.