Weaver Vs. Coetzee: An Underrated Heavyweight Slugfest

Politics aside, the WBA heavyweight title fight that took place 42 years ago this week (October 25 of 1980) between defending champ Mike Weaver and challenger Gerrie Coetzee was a darn good show. Sure, a good number of people felt very strongly that no fight between a black man and a white South African should be taking place in South Africa, this during the ongoing Apartheid troubles, but as a boxing match and nothing more, Weaver-Coetzee was something for all fans to cheer about.

In spurts, at least.

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Weaver, the former Marine with nine losses on his record, had shocked fans with his gutsy showing against WBC heavyweight boss Larry Holmes in 1979, and “Hercules” had ripped the WBA version of the heavyweight crown from John Tate (who had beaten Coetzee in South Africa to take the WBA belt) in March of 1980 – this with a sizzling, in-close hook to the jaw that ruined “Big John” with mere seconds remaining on the clock in the 15th round.

Weaver was making his maiden title defence against Coetzee; the man with the so-called “bionic right hand.” Coetzee had just the points loss to Tate on his record, and before that, in 1979, Gerrie had made a name for himself by destroying Leon Spinks in a single round. Maybe, fans thought, Coetzee really did have bionic punching power.

Against Weaver, with a huge crowd roaring him on inside a boisterous Super Bowl arena in Sun City, Coetzee went for another quick finish. Coming out hard and fast, Coetzee managed to crack the notoriously slow-starting Weaver with some hefty wallops. Weaver looked stunned, but he did manage to fire back. A sensational slugfest was being witnessed. For a while. Coetzee, having failed to take his man out, slowed after the second round (this one also containing some thrilling bursts of punching from both sides), and the challenger began mauling Weaver, holding him and wrestling him.

There was still the odd exchange, but Coetzee was clearly trying to win ugly. But then the great action resumed in the eighth, when Coetzee stung Weaver with a big right hand, the defending champion banged into the ropes. Coetzee came alive, unloading all he could in an effort at ending the fight. Weaver looked to be on the verge of going, yet he instead held on and even managed to come back himself. It was a great round. It was also Coetzee’s last real chance of winning.

Weaver had to contend with more wrestling from Coetzee over the course of the next few rounds, with Weaver also managing to open a nasty cut on the challenger’s nose in the 11th. Then, in the unlucky round, Weaver made a concerted effort to get rid of his rival. Weaver’s right hand got home, as did some body shots, and Coetzee retreated. To his credit, Coetzee than stood his ground and tried to land some hurt on Weaver. But Weaver connected with a bomb of a right hand, the blow landing flush on Coetzee’s jaw. Coetzee tried to rise but was counted out whilst still on his knees.

The fans had for sure been given their money’s worth, and the fight is well worth watching today. Weaver KO13 Coetzee is no classic, yet it boasts, at times, some special moments of violence.

Weaver would lose his belt to Mike Dokes the following year (being stopped in hugely controversial fashion). Coetzee would defeat Dokes in 1983, becoming a champion at the third time of asking.

Coetzee is said to be getting the silver screen treatment soon. The Weaver fight is sure to feature in the film.