Gerrie Coetzee

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Gerrie Coetzee
Real nameGerhardus Christian Coetzee
  • The Boksburg Bomber
  • The Bionic Hand
  • Seer Handjies
    ("Sore Little Hands")
Height1.92 m (6 ft 4 in)
Reach206 cm (81 in)
Born (1955-04-08) 8 April 1955 (age 66)
Boksburg, East Rand,
Gauteng, South Africa
Boxing record
Total fights40
Wins by KO21

Gerhardus Christian "Gerrie" Coetzee (born 8 April 1955) is a South African former professional boxer who competed from 1974 to 1986, and in 1993 and 1997.[1] He was the first African ever to fight for, and win, a world heavyweight championship, having held the WBA title from 1983 to 1984. He holds notable knockout wins against WBA world heavyweight champion Michael Dokes and former unified world heavyweight champion Leon Spinks, as well as a draw with future WBC world heavyweight champion Pinklon Thomas.

One of Coetzee's nicknames, "The Bionic Hand", came about because of persistent troubles with his right hand, which required the insertion of several corrective items during three surgeries. His Afrikaans nickname was "Seer Handjies", or "Sore Little Hands", named so by fellow South African boxing great Kallie Knoetze.

Professional career[edit]

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. Coetzee followed his early success with a string of victories in his homeland. Among those wins was one over Roos in a rematch, which Coetzee won by a knockout in three rounds; he also defeated South African Mike Schutte who had been casually considered as a potential gimmic opponent for Muhammad Ali. Other notable wins included defeating 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 majority of Coetzee's fights during his early run were held in his native South Africa.

In the fight with Spinks, the former champion attacked Coetzee and pressured him, throwing punches from many angles and trying to steam-roll the South African. Coetzee composed himself and, with 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 first roundtechnical knockout. The win enhanced Coetzee's reputation as a real title threat in the post-Ali landscape of the heavyweight division.

First world title attempt[edit]

Coetzee as the #2 contender was matched with John Tate for the WBA heavyweight title that had been left vacant by Muhammad Ali ’s retirement. The bout was held in Pretoria and in fact this event was the first time blacks were allowed into the venue (Loftus Versfeld).

Coetzee was the first African-born heavyweight ever to challenge for a world title. The Boksburg Bomber fought a tentative bout and, after holding his own early, faded from the midpoint of the bout onward. Tate won a decision over 15 rounds. Coetzee would reveal later in his career that in his early fighting years, he struggled with self-confidence, particularly in measuring up to American fighters.

Coetzee himself was vocal of his opposition to Apartheid. To provide context: 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 December 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 world title attempt[edit]

Tate lasted only a short time as WBA world titlist, as he was KO'd in spectacular last-round fashion by Mike Weaver in his first title defense. In the meantime, Coetzee had maintained his status as a highly rated contender by bombing out Mike Koraniki in the first round to keep his title hopes alive.

The new title holder 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 serious trouble but Coetzee could not capitalize.

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 had begun to throw fewer punches after 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 failed to beat the count having been floored 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 twice 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.[3][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 heading into a bout with 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, although the result harmed neither fighter. Following his loss to Snipes and draw with Thomas, Coetzee was not considered a strong title contender, but he was still highly ranked.

WBA heavyweight champion[edit]

Perhaps because of his success against Thomas in the first half of their fight, 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 rather than merely swinging his potent right hand. He continued to eschew much in the way of defense, sponging anything Dokes could land. In the 5th, he scored a knockdown and the commentary of the fight revolves around his poise and control.. much different than a man lacking on confidence. After seizing control and dominating, 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.[4]

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 City.

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.[5]

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.[6][7][8][9]

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.[10] 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 win by Tim Witherspoon (who had defeated Tubbs, who had defeated 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.

Professional boxing record[edit]

Professional record summary
40 fights 33 wins 6 losses
By knockout 21 4
By decision 11 2
By disqualification 1 0
Draws 1
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
40 Loss 33–6–1 United States Iran Barkley TKO 10 (12), 2:07 8 Jun 1997 United States Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, California, US For vacant World Boxing Board heavyweight title
39 Win 33–5–1 United States Dan Kosmicki TKO 3 (10) 10 Jan 1997 United States Hollywood Palladium, Los Angeles, California, US
38 Win 32–5–1 United States West Turner TKO 5 (10) 1 Oct 1993 United States ARCO Arena, Sacramento, California, US
37 Win 31–5–1 Canada Dave Fiddler KO 2 (10), 0:58 27 Aug 1993 United States ARCO Arena, Sacramento, California, US
36 Loss 30–5–1 United Kingdom Frank Bruno KO 1 (10), 1:50 4 Mar 1986 United Kingdom Wembley Arena, London, England
35 Win 30–4–1 United States James Tillis UD 10 7 Sep 1985 South Africa Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
34 Loss 29–4–1 United States Greg Page KO 8 (15), 3:03 1 Dec 1984 Bophuthatswana Superbowl, Sun City, Bophuthatswana Lost WBA heavyweight title
33 Win 29–3–1 United States Michael Dokes KO 10 (15), 3:08 23 Sep 1983 United States Coliseum, Richfield, Ohio, US Won WBA heavyweight title
32 Draw 28–3–1 United States Pinklon Thomas MD 10 22 Jan 1983 United States Sands, Atlantic City, New Jersey, US
31 Win 28–3 United States Stan Ward TKO 2 (10), 2:10 11 Sep 1982 United States Sands, Atlantic City, New Jersey, US
30 Win 27–3 United States Scott LeDoux KO 8 (10) 27 Mar 1982 South Africa Rand Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
29 Win 26–3 United States Fossie Schmidt RTD 4 (10) 13 Feb 1982 South Africa Rand Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
28 Win 25–3 United States Leroy Caldwell KO 5 (10), 2:37 31 Oct 1981 South Africa Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
27 Loss 24–3 United States Renaldo Snipes SD 10 9 Aug 1981 United States New Westchester Theater, Tarrytown, New York, US
26 Win 24–2 United States George Chaplin UD 10 14 Mar 1981 United States Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii, US
25 Loss 23–2 United States Mike Weaver TKO 13 (15), 1:49 25 Oct 1980 Bophuthatswana Superbowl, Sun City, Bophuthatswana For WBA heavyweight title
24 Win 23–1 United States Mike Koranicki KO 1 (10), 1:43 19 Apr 1980 South Africa Rand Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
23 Loss 22–1 United States John Tate UD 15 20 Oct 1979 South Africa Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria, South Africa For vacant WBA heavyweight title
22 Win 22–0 United States Leon Spinks TKO 1 (12), 2:03 24 Jun 1979 Monaco Le Chapiteau de l'Espace, Fontvieille, Monaco
21 Win 21–0 United States Ibar Arrington PTS 10 15 Dec 1978 South Africa New Kingsmead Soccer Stadium, Durban, South Africa
20 Win 20–0 United States Randy Stephens PTS 10 26 May 1978 South Africa Film Trust Arena, Johannesburg, South Africa
19 Win 19–0 United States Johnny Boudreaux KO 6 (10) 3 Dec 1977 South Africa Wembley Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
18 Win 18–0 United States Tom Prater RTD 4 (10) 29 Oct 1977 South Africa Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
17 Win 17–0 South Africa Mike Schutte PTS 12 16 Apr 1977 South Africa Wembley Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa Retained South African heavyweight title
16 Win 16–0 South Africa Pierre Fourie KO 3 (12) 19 Mar 1977 South Africa Wembley Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa Retained South African heavyweight title
15 Win 15–0 South Africa James Mathatho KO 7 (12) 27 Nov 1976 South Africa Rand Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa Retained South African heavyweight title
14 Win 14–0 South Africa Kallie Knoetze PTS 10 30 Oct 1976 South Africa Rand Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
13 Win 13–0 South Africa Mike Schutte DQ 6 (12) 16 Aug 1976 South Africa Westridge Park Tennis Stadium, Durban, South Africa Won South African heavyweight title;
Schutte disqualified for attempting to kick Coetzee while he was down
12 Win 12–0 United States Ron Stander RTD 8 (10) 17 Jul 1976 South Africa Film Trust Arena, Johannesburg, South Africa
11 Win 11–0 South Africa Jimmy Richards TKO 9 (10), 2:35 10 Apr 1976 South Africa Portuguese Hall, Johannesburg, South Africa Won vacant Transvaal (White) heavyweight title
10 Win 10–0 West Germany Hartmut Sasse PTS 8 22 Mar 1976 South Africa Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
9 Win 9–0 South Africa Jimmy Richards PTS 6 28 Feb 1976 South Africa Wembley Ice Rink, Johannesburg, South Africa
8 Win 8–0 South Africa Chris Roos TKO 3 (8) 27 Oct 1975 South Africa Wembley Ice Rink, Johannesburg, South Africa
7 Win 7–0 Netherlands Hennie Thoonen TKO 3 (6) 27 Jun 1975 South Africa Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
6 Win 6–0 Italy Amedeo Laureti PTS 6 7 Jun 1975 South Africa Wembley Ice Rink, Johannesburg, South Africa
5 Win 5–0 Netherlands Hennie Thoonen PTS 6 5 May 1975 South Africa Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
4 Win 4–0 United States Steve Foley KO 3 (6) 22 Feb 1975 South Africa Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
3 Win 3–0 South Africa Kosie Oosthuizen KO 1 (6), 0:38 2 Nov 1974 South Africa Gauteng North Badminton Hall, Pretoria, South Africa
2 Win 2–0 Netherlands Bert Nikkelen Kuyper KO 1 (6), 0:25 26 Oct 1974 South Africa Rand Stadium, Johannesburg, South Africa
1 Win 1–0 South Africa Chris Roos PTS 4 14 Sep 1974 South Africa Portuguese Hall, Johannesburg, South Africa


  1. ^ Dreyer, Nadine (2006). A century of Sundays: 100 years of breaking news in the Sunday times, 1906-2006. Zebra. pp. 314–. ISBN 9781770071063. Retrieved 26 March 2012.
  2. ^ Ron Jackson -
  3. ^ Katz, Michael (6 June 1982). "Witherspoon Defeats Snipes". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  4. ^ Dlamini, Jacob (2010). Native Nostalgia. Jacana Media. p. 29. ISBN 978-1770097551. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  5. ^ "The heavyweight championship bout between Larry Holmes and John..." 14 March 1984. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  6. ^ Katz, Michael (9 March 1984). "Angry Boxers Meeting for Holmes's Old Title: Angry Boxers Meet for Vacant Title". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  7. ^ Rhoden, William (28 April 1985). "Another Chapter in the Page Riddle". The New York Times. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  8. ^ Smith, Sam (10 November 1987). "Tillis Still Quick with Lip, Quick to Defend Himself". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 11 July 2019.
  9. ^ Newfield, Jack (2003). The Life & Crimes of Don King: The Shame of Boxing in America. Harbour Publishing. p. 204. ISBN 0974020109.
  10. ^ Kent, Graeme (1997). Boxing's Strangest Fights: Incredible but True Encounters from over 250 Years of Boxing History. Robson Books. pp. 199–200. ISBN 1861053258. Retrieved 11 July 2019.

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
Regional boxing titles
Title last held by
Mike Schutte
Transvaal (White)
heavyweight champion

10 April 1976 – August 1976
Title next held by
Jimmy Abbott
Preceded by
Mike Schutte
South African
heavyweight champion

16 August 1976 – 1983
Title next held by
Robbie Williams
World boxing titles
Preceded by
Michael Dokes
WBA heavyweight champion
23 September 1983 – 1 December 1984
Succeeded by
Greg Page
Kirkland Laing
SD10 Roberto Durán
The Ring Upset of the Year
KO10 Michael Dokes

Gene Hatcher
TKO11 Johnny Bumphus