John Tate (boxer)

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John Tate
Nickname(s)Big John
Height6 ft 4 in (193 cm)
Reach80 in (203 cm)
Born(1955-01-29)January 29, 1955
Marion, Arkansas, U.S.
DiedApril 9, 1998(1998-04-09) (aged 43)
Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
Boxing record
Total fights37
Wins by KO23

John Tate (January 29, 1955 – April 9, 1998) was an American professional boxer who competed from 1977 to 1988, and held the WBA heavyweight title from 1979 to 1980. As an amateur he won a bronze medal in the heavyweight division at the 1976 Summer Olympics.

Amateur career[edit]

"Big John" Tate (named due to his 6'4" height) captured a bronze medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, losing to Olympic boxing legend Teófilo Stevenson.

1976 Olympic results[edit]

Tate lost in the finals of the 1975 National Golden Gloves to Emory Chapman. He lost in the quarterfinals the next year in a split decision to Michael Dokes. He avenged his loss to Dokes in the Olympic Trials by decision, and beat 1976 National AAU Champion Marvin Stinson to advance to the Olympic team. He also beat future heavyweight champion Greg Page by two close decisions, one in the quarterfinals of the 1975 National Golden Gloves tournament.

Tate met his future trainer, Ace Miller, during an amateur tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee. Tate and Miller worked together through 1983.[1]

Professional career[edit]

Tate turned pro in 1977 and scored a series of high-profile wins, knocking out highly ranked contenders Duane Bobick, Bernardo Mercado, and Kallie Knoetze. He captured the vacant WBA title on October 20, 1979 by defeating Gerrie Coetzee by decision, succeeding Muhammad Ali, who had relinquished the title that summer. Tate's fights with Knoetze and Coetzee were held in Apartheid South Africa, the latter before 80,000 fans.

Tate lost the title to Mike Weaver in his first defence just five months later. Tate was well ahead on all scorecards going into the 15th and final round when the big hitting Weaver landed a left hook punch to the chin that left the champion twitching unconscious on the canvas for several minutes.[2]

Tate came back from the loss on June 20, 1980 against up and coming Trevor Berbick. This was on the undercard of the legendary fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Durán. The former champion started well, but tired throughout the bruising battle and was defeated by Berbick early in the 9th round—being knocked out by a punch that caught him on the back of the head and left him unconscious.[2]

Tate was in the frame to challenge Larry Holmes for the heavyweight title in 1984, but the fight fell apart due to injury. Tate boxed on and off for the remainder of the 1980s but was often grossly overweight. He weighed in at an astonishing 281 lbs prior to losing a points decision to journeyman Noel Quarless in London, in his final fight in 1988. Tate's professional career record was 34-3, with 23 wins by knockout.

Outside the ring[edit]

Tate's life after his championship reign was brief and troubled, suffering from a cocaine addiction during the 1980s, being convicted on petty theft and assault charges,[3] serving time in prison, and at times panhandling on the streets of Knoxville, Tennessee.[4] He was rumored to have ballooned to over 400 pounds in his post-fighting years.[4]


On April 9, 1998, Tate died of injuries sustained following a one-car automobile accident. It was determined that he suffered a massive stroke, caused by a brain tumor, while driving. The pickup truck crashed into a utility pole. Two other passengers were not seriously injured.[5]

Professional boxing record[edit]

Professional record summary
37 fights 34 wins 3 losses
By knockout 23 2
By decision 10 1
By disqualification 1 0
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
37 Loss 34–3 United Kingdom Noel Quarless PTS 10 Mar 30, 1988 United Kingdom York Hall, London, England
36 Win 34–2 United States Wesley Smith UD 4 Jan 16, 1988 United States Viking Hall, Bristol, Tennessee, U.S.
35 Win 33–2 United States Mark Green KO 1 (6) Dec 19, 1987 United States Bristol, Tennessee, U.S.
34 Win 32–2 United States Calvin Jones MD 4 Nov 28, 1987 United States International Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee, U.S.
33 Win 31–2 United States Steve Eisenbarth TKO 1 (6) Apr 17, 1986 United States Convention Center, Bakersfield, California, U.S.
32 Win 30–2 United States Marty Capasso KO 2 (10), 1:26 Aug 19, 1983 United States Auditorium, West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
31 Win 29–2 United States Donnie Long UD 10 Apr 10, 1983 United States Hilton, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
30 Win 28–2 United States Danny Sutton TKO 5 (10), 2:55 Jan 13, 1983 United States Viking Hall, Bristol, Tennessee, U.S.
29 Win 27–2 United States Bruce Grandham TKO 3 (10) Aug 27, 1982 United States Bristol, Tennessee, U.S.
28 Win 26–2 United States Leroy Boone UD 10 Jul 8, 1982 United States Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
27 Win 25–2 United States Leroy Caldwell UD 10 Mar 25, 1982 United States Showboat Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
26 Win 24–2 United States Chuck Gardner KO 1 (10), 2:25 Nov 27, 1981 United States Civic Coliseum, Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
25 Win 23–2 United States Barry Funches TKO 7 (10), 2:59 Oct 15, 1981 United States Sands, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
24 Win 22–2 United States Clayman Parker TKO 1 (10), 2:47 Aug 8, 1981 United States Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
23 Win 21–2 United States Harvey Steichen UD 10 Feb 15, 1981 United States Civic Coliseum, Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
22 Loss 20–2 Canada Trevor Berbick KO 9 (10), 0:22 Jun 20, 1980 Canada Olympic Stadium, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
21 Loss 20–1 United States Mike Weaver KO 15 (15), 2:15 Mar 31, 1980 United States Stokely Athletic Center, Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S. Lost WBA heavyweight title
20 Win 20–0 South Africa Gerrie Coetzee UD 15 Oct 20, 1979 South Africa Loftus Versfeld Stadium, Pretoria, South Africa Won vacant WBA heavyweight title
19 Win 19–0 South Africa Kallie Knoetze TKO 8 (12), 2:52 Jun 2, 1979 Bophuthatswana Independence Stadium, Mmabatho, Bophuthatswana
18 Win 18–0 United States Duane Bobick KO 1 (10), 2:15 Feb 17, 1979 United States Market Square Arena, Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
17 Win 17–0 United States Ron Draper KO 5 (10), 1:55 Dec 9, 1978 United States Cobo Arena, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
16 Win 16–0 United States Roy Wallace KO 9 (10), 0:43 Oct 14, 1978 United States The Summit, Houston, Texas, U.S.
15 Win 15–0 United States Johnny Boudreaux SD 10 Aug 26, 1978 United States Houston, Texas, U.S.
14 Win 14–0 United States Walter Santemore KO 6 (10), 2:45 Jul 7, 1978 United States Sports Stadium, Orlando, Florida, U.S.
13 Win 13–0 Colombia Bernardo Mercado TKO 2 (10), 2:24 Jun 22, 1978 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
12 Win 12–0 Argentina Reinaldo Gorosito KO 2 (10) May 13, 1978 United States Sports Stadium, Orlando, Florida, U.S.
11 Win 11–0 United States Harold Carter DQ 4 Apr 25, 1978 United States Sports Stadium, Orlando, Florida, U.S.
10 Win 10–0 United States Leon Shaw KO 7 (10), 2:32 Mar 14, 1978 United States Sports Stadium, Orlando, Florida, U.S.
9 Win 9–0 United States James Dixon KO 3 Jan 29, 1978 United States Hyatt Regency, Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
8 Win 8–0 United States Charlie Jordan KO 1 Dec 3, 1977 United States Knoxville, Tennessee, U.S.
7 Win 7–0 United States Frank Schram TKO 1 (6) Nov 18, 1977 United States Caesars Palace, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
6 Win 6–0 United States Lou Esa KO 3 (6), 2:58 Oct 22, 1977 United States The Aladdin, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
5 Win 5–0 United States Eddie Lopez MD 6 Sep 13, 1977 United States Grand Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
4 Win 4–0 United States Walter Santemore PTS 6 Aug 23, 1977 United States Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
3 Win 3–0 United States Baker Tinsley KO 2 (6) Aug 20, 1977 United States High School Gym, Pikeville, Kentucky, U.S.
2 Win 2–0 United States Norm Kues KO 1 (6), 1:45 Jun 1, 1977 Canada Forum, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
1 Win 1–0 United States Jerry Thompkins TKO 5 (6), 2:40 May 7, 1977 United States Kiel Auditorium, St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.


  1. ^ "Reflections on Big John Tate: Boxing Interview with Ace Miller". Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  2. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-10-12. Retrieved 2007-10-24.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ a b Frank Litsky (1998-04-11). "John Tate, 43, Troubled Heavyweight Champ". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
  5. ^ Thompson, Jack (April 12, 1998). "Examiner: Tate's Death From Stroke". Chicago Tribue. Retrieved 21 May 2018.

External links[edit]

Sporting positions
World boxing titles
Title last held by
Muhammad Ali
WBA heavyweight champion
October 20, 1979 – March 31, 1980
Succeeded by
Mike Weaver