Gerrie Coetzee

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Gerrie Coetzee
Real nameGerhardus Christian Coetzee
Nickname(s)The Bionic Hand
Rated atHeavyweight
Height6 ft 2 12 in (1.89 m)
Reach81 in (206 cm)
NationalitySouth African
Born(1955-04-08) 8 April 1955 (age 59)
Boksburg, South Africa
Boxing record
Total fights40
Wins by KO21
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Gerrie Coetzee
Real nameGerhardus Christian Coetzee
Nickname(s)The Bionic Hand
Rated atHeavyweight
Height6 ft 2 12 in (1.89 m)
Reach81 in (206 cm)
NationalitySouth African
Born(1955-04-08) 8 April 1955 (age 59)
Boksburg, South Africa
Boxing record
Total fights40
Wins by KO21

Gerhardus Christian Coetzee (born 8 April 1955 in Boksburg) is a South African former boxer.[1] He was the first boxer from the African continent ever to fight for, and win, a world heavyweight title, holding the WBA version of the championship between September 1983 and December 1984. His nickname was The Bionic Hand, because he always had trouble with his right hand, and had a few corrective items put in it during three surgeries. His Afrikaans nickname was "Seer Handjies" or little sore hands, named so by fellow South African boxing great Kallie Knoetze.

Rise to championship contention[edit]

Coetzee started boxing professionally on the night of 14 September 1974, when he beat 19 fight veteran and fellow South African Christian Roos by a decision in four. He followed that win with 21 consecutive wins to reach a record of 22-0 before fighting for the WBA heavyweight title for the first time. Among those wins was one over Roos in a rematch, which Coetzee won by a knockout in three rounds; wins over former world title challengers Ron Stander, Randy Stephens and Pierre Fourie; a South African Heavyweight championship victory against amateur rival Kallie Knoetze (unanimous decision in 10) as well as a first round knockout of former world heavyweight champion Leon Spinks. With exception of the Spinks bout, held at Monte Carlo, the rest of Coetzee's fights during his early run were held in his native South Africa.

Spinks attacked Coetzee and pressured him, throwing punches from many angles and trying to steam-roll the South African. Coetzee composed himself and a short right hand delivered to Spinks' temple knocked down the former world champion. Coetzee proceeded to drop Spinks two more times to record a technical knockout. The win enhanced Coetzee's reputation as a real title threat in the post-Ali landscape of the heavyweight division.

First attempt at a world title[edit]

Coetzee faced John Tate for the WBA heavyweight title that had been left vacant by Muhammad Ali. Coetzee became the first African born heavyweight ever to challenge for a world title, but was beaten on points over 15 rounds.

The first major boxing event in South Africa to change the face of sports in apartheid South Africa was the fight between Bob Foster and Pierre Fourie on 1 Dec 1973. This laid firm foundations for racially-mixed boxing in front of racially-mixed audiences. Mixed bouts between South Africans were legalised in 1977, but the last vestiges of the colour bar disappeared only two years later when the system of white, black and supreme titles was abolished.

The first multiracial SA title fights were held at the Rand Stadium in Johannesburg on 27 November 1976 when Gerrie Coetzee and Elijah 'Tap Tap' Makhatini became undisputed champions.[2]

Second attempt at a world title[edit]

Tate lasted only a short time as WBA world titlist, as he was beaten by Mike Weaver in his first title defense. In the meantime, Coetzee had maintained his status as a highly rated contender with a win over Mike Koraniki in the first round to keep his title hopes alive. Weaver traveled to South Africa in 1980 to defend his title against Coetzee, fighting in front of a very large crowd. Coetzee dominated the early portions, and had Weaver hurt several times. In the 8th, Weaver was in trouble but Coetzee could not capitalise.

With the opportunity to finish Weaver gone, Coetzee seemed to wilt. Weaver was beginning to time Coetzee's punches for counters. By round 12 the fight was close to even, with the South African's lead having evaporated. Weaver had survived Coetzee's onslaught and the tide had turned. Coetzee's stamina failed him and he began to throw fewer punches by round 9. Coetzee was now leaning and mauling more and was getting hit more often coming in with his unprotected head held high. Weaver was accelerating and was getting the better of exchanges as the bout wore on. Coetzee was knocked down for the first time in his career and out by a big counter punch in the 13th round.

Road to a third title bout[edit]

Less than 5 months after the loss against Weaver, Coetzee returned to the ring and beat fringe contender George Chaplin before facing Renaldo Snipes. Coetzee dropped Snipes early and seemed to dominate the action. However, the fight was scored by rounds and not on points, meaning a round won widely with knockdowns was no more valued than a round lost narrowly, and he lost a ten round decision that was deemed one of the worst of the decade.[citation needed]

Coetzee had gone 5-1 in the 6 fights since the Weaver bout. Among the wins was one over former title challenger Scott Le Doux.

He next faced the up-and-coming future WBC champion Pinklon Thomas. Again, Coetzee held the edge in the first half of the bout but Thomas rallied to hold Coetzee to a draw. Following his loss to Snipes and draw with Thomas, Coetzee was not considered a strong title contender.

World title[edit]

Coetzee received his third world title try against WBA champion Michael Dokes. By now known as someone who could not win "The Big One", Coetzee's predicted fate in this bout was to show-case the Don King-promoted Dokes' abilities and status as a rising star.

The fight took place on 23 September 1983 at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. Coetzee dominated Dokes after a few rounds of even fighting. The South African led with aggression but also used counter punching as well. Coetzee's poise was apparent, and he boxed more deftly than usual employing more left hooks while still eschewing much in the way of defense, sponging anything Dokes could land and scoring a knockdown. Coetzee knocked out Dokes in the tenth round to become South Africa's first world Heavyweight title holder. He also became the first Caucasian world heavyweight champion in 23 years. The fight was KO Magazine's "Upset of The Year" for 1983.[citation needed]

It turned out that the punch that knocked out Dokes hurt Coetzee even more: his right hand was broken and required surgery five days after the fight, in New York.

Failed unification and defeat[edit]

There was much talk about a unification bout with the recognized best fighter in the division and now International Boxing Federation Champion, Holmes, in 1984, and a contract for a lucrative bout was signed. Holmes possessed only one of the 3 title belts but was recognized by most as the real, bona fide, champion.[citation needed]

Financial problems arose when the backer of the bout, JPD Sports out of Dallas, Texas, could not raise the original purse necessary. Caesar's Palace spoke of saving the promotion, but it fell through. Don King's involvement as Coetzee's promoter, as well as Larry Holmes' split with King previously also contributed to the bout not being made. Holmes wanted to save the bout which would have earned both him and Coetzee a significant sum of money. Coetzee was personally willing and eager for the bout. He even indicated he was willing to go through with the bout though he would likely enter the ring without the WBA title. The WBA had stated that for the bout to take place with its blessing, it required Holmes to fight as a contender for Coetzee's belt. Or, the WBA would require Coetzee to drop his belt to qualify as a challenger for Holmes'.

Holmes saw no reason for the WBA to preside over a bout between the two men. The WBA insisted Coetzee could not face Holmes, despite the fact Holmes had been recognized as the best heavyweight in the world since 1978. In any event, Coetzee re-injured his hand during training camp, requiring further surgery, and the fight was cancelled.

On his return to the ring, after an extended absence, Coetzee was paired with Greg Page (the real #1 contender David Bey, refused to go to South Africa as described in "Only in America: The Life and Crimes of Don King" by Jack Newfield, Bey became the #1 by outpointing Greg Page over 12 rounds). Page was even more stigmatized by failing to win big fights than was Coetzee. He was seen as supremely talented and like many fighters in the immediate post-Ali era, his size, speed and coordination supposedly portended great expectations of achievement. While Page could look extremely impressive, as against James Tillis for example, he also was seen as lazy and unmotivated.[citation needed]

In this bout Page did less posing than normal, and did more fighting putting on an energetic performance. Coetzee seemed overconfident, and can be seen delivering a lot of the trash-talking and doing less punching and trying more verbal intimidation such as he used in bouts against Tate and Weaver. But Page was on much better form than when he had lost to Bey. Coetzee for his part was dangerous and while sloppy, was getting his own shots home. The challenger's strong chin nullified Coetzee's power to some extent. The two exchanged momentum. Coetzee's lack of defense was more evident than usual, and he was a sitting duck for Page's counter-punching and his once dependable chin seemed to fail him, being stung and hurt often. His right was not effective, but he was scoring with his left hand. He was dropped after the bell of the 6th round in a foul; and in the 7th legitimately. Page was taking advantage of Coetzee's recklessness. In exchange after exchange as the bout wore on, it was Coetzee, the "puncher", losing the skirmishes and being hurt. He was knocked out in Round 8. But, there was controversy.

Coetzee's camp protested that not only had the 8th round run too long, but also that while Coetzee was on the canvas the bell had sounded and the referee's count should have been waved off. Generally, this would have allowed Coetzee to continue for at least one more round. The 8th, the round in question actually did run for almost a minute too long.[citation needed] Despite this, the WBA recognized the result as it happened, and affirmed Page as the winner by a knockout in eight. Coetzee and his camp demanded an immediate rematch. Instead, Page went on to face Tony Tubbs whom he had beaten several times in the amateurs.

Post-championship career[edit]

After losing his title, Coetzee made token attempts at a comeback. He beat the former title challenger and at that time mid-level foe James "Quick" Tillis by a decision in ten. Next was a journey to England to fight the big-punching contender Frank Bruno. In the offing would be a shot at the WBA title, since dropped by Page. Coetzee was knocked out in round one. After that fight, he announced his retirement, but came back twice during the 1990s, winning by knockout in three against both Dave Fiddler and Wes Turner in 1993, and then winning against Dan Komiscki in three. Coetzee lost to former world Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion Iran Barkley by a knockout in ten, after dropping him in round two, for the WBB Superheavyweight belt.

Coetzee has remained in retirement ever since.

His overall record stands at 33 wins, 6 losses and 1 draw, with 21 wins by knockout.

Professional boxing record[edit]

33 Wins (21 knockouts, 12 decisions), 6 Losses (4 knockouts, 2 decision), 1 Draw [1]
Loss40-12United States Iran "The Blade" BarkleyTKO108 June 1997California Hollywood, California, United StatesWBB World Heavyweight Title. Referee stopped the bout at 2:07 of the tenth round.
Win12-12United States Dan KosmickiTKO310 January 1997California Hollywood, California, United States
Win16-3United States West TurnerTKO51 October 1993California Sacramento, California, United States
Win15-13-2Canada Dave FiddlerKO227 August 1993California Sacramento, California, United States
Loss27-1United Kingdom Frank BrunoKO14 March 1986United Kingdom Wembley, London, United KingdomCoetzee knocked out at 1:50 of the first round.
Win31-6United States James "The Fighting Cowboy" TillisUD107 September 1985South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa99-93, 99-94.
Loss23-3United States Greg PageKO81 December 1984Bophuthatswana Sun City, BophuthatswanaWBA World Heavyweight Title. Coetzee knocked out at 3:03 of the eighth round.
Win26-0-2United States Michael "Dynamite" DokesKO1023 September 1983Ohio Richfield, Ohio, United StatesWBA World Heavyweight Title. Dokes knocked out at 3:08 of the tenth round.
Draw20-0United States Pinklon ThomasPTS1022 January 1983New Jersey Atlantic City, New Jersey, United States5-4, 5-5, 4-4.
Win15-4-2United States Stan "Avalanche" WardTKO211 September 1982New Jersey Atlantic City, New Jersey, United StatesReferee stopped the bout at 2:10 of the second round.
Win29-10-4United States Scott "The Fighting Frenchman" LeDouxKO827 March 1982South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win20-6United States Fossie SchmidtTKO413 February 1982South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win28-25-5United States Leroy CaldwellKO531 October 1981South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South AfricaCaldwell knocked out at 2:37 of the fifth round.
Loss21-0United States Renaldo SnipesSD109 August 1981New York Tarrytown, New York, United States4-5, 4-5, 6-3.
Win16-2-2United States George ChaplinUD1014 March 1981Hawaii Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Loss22-9United States Mike "Hecules" WeaverTKO1325 October 1980Bophuthatswana Sun City, BophuthatswanaWBA World Heavyweight Title. 113-117, 115-116, 114-116.
Win22-5-2United States Mike KoranickiKO119 April 1980South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Loss19-0United States "Big" John TateUD1520 October 1979South Africa Pretoria, Transvaal, South AfricaWBA World Heavyweight Title. 144-147, 142-147, 145-148.
Win7-1-1United States "Neon" Leon SpinksTKO124 June 1979Monaco Monte Carlo, MonacoReferee stopped the bout at 2:03 of the first round.
Win26-6-1United States Ibar ArringtonPTS1015 December 1978South Africa Durban, Natal South Africa
Win10-3United States Randy StephensPTS1026 May 1978South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win20-2-1United States Johnny BoudreauxKO63 December 1977South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win18-6-1United States Tom PraterKO429 October 1977South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win34-6-1South Africa Mike "The Tank" SchuttePTS1216 April 1977South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South AfricaSouth African Heavyweight Title.
Win52-6-1South Africa Pierre FourieKO319 March 1977South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South AfricaSouth African Heavyweight Title.
Win11-4-1South Africa James MathathoKO727 November 1976South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South AfricaSouth African Heavyweight Title.
Win6-1South Africa Kallie "Die Bek van Boomstraat" KnoetzePTS1030 October 1976South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win32-5-1South Africa Mike "The Tank" SchutteDQ616 August 1976South Africa Durban, Natal, South AfricaSouth African Heavyweight Title.
Win30-9-2United States Ron "The Butcher" StanderKO817 July 1976South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win26-10-4South Africa Jimmy RichardsTKO910 April 1976South Africa Turffontein, Transvaal South AfricaTransvaal Heavyweight Title. Referee stopped the bout at 2:35 of the ninth round.
Win11-6-1Germany Hartmut SassePTS620 March 1976South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win11-7-2South Africa Chris RoosTKO327 October 1975South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win5-3Netherlands Hennie ThoonenTKO327 June 1975South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win6-5-1Italy Amedeo LauretiPTS67 June 1975South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win4-1Netherlands Hennie ThoonenPTS65 May 1975South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win13-14-1United States Steve FoleyKO322 February 1975South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa
Win1-0South Africa Kosie OosthuizenKO12 November 1974South Africa Pretoria, Transvaal, South AfricaKosie knocked out at 0:38 of the first round.
Win8-7-1Netherlands Bert Nikkelen KuyperKO126 October 1974South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South AfricaKuyper knocked out at 0:25 of the first round.
Win11-6-2South Africa Chris RoosPTS414 September 1974South Africa Johannesburg, Transvaal, South Africa


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Michael Dokes
Heavyweight boxing champion (WBA)
Succeeded by
Greg Page