By: Sean Cross
For a short while, there were rumors that the man might be involved in a major heavyweight title fight against undefeated king Larry Holmes. That fight never came to fruition, but Gerry Coates, who has passed away at the age of 67, left his mark on boxing. Not only was the former WBA heavyweight champion the first South African heavyweight champion of the world, he also opposed apartheid when a white South African was not supposed to do such things.
In the year “I feel like I fight for everybody, black and white,” he said in 1984 when he won the WBA heavyweight title from Michael Dokes. “What makes me happy is that black, brown and white people accept me as they are. Warrior” of New York Times Coetzee was quoted as saying, “When I get back home, I’m going to continue to work to help people get together.”
Coetzee recalled the time a police officer showed up at his home about the incident. “When the policeman knocked on the door, you thought he used a sledgehammer… Once I opened the door, he swept me out of the way and went through the whole house. He wanted to know where the boy slept and where he bathed. To his credit, Coetzee stood his ground. He added: “A few days later I was sent a summons, but I failed to respond and nothing came.
As a fighter, Coetzee found his way up the hard way. He lost title matches to John Tate and Mike Weaver before finally defeating Dox in the 1983 War. He then lost the title to Greg Page in December of the following year. One of Coates’ fondest memories was “being called into Nelson Mandela’s office in the early 1990s. It was amazing,” said Coetzee, “because the country was preparing for democracy and Mr. Mandela was leading it…it was a moment of surrender and he gave me a medal. I was surprised to hear him listening to radio commentary of some of my kills while in prison.
Mandela requested Coetzee’s company on two other occasions. The title of the film of Coetzee’s life Gerry It is said to be almost complete.
* The quotations mentioned in this article are by IOLhttps://www.iol.co.za/sport/boxing/boksburg-bombers-fight-against-apartheid-46583061