John Tate (boxer)

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John Tate
Real name John Tate
Nickname(s) Big John
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 6 ft 4 in (193 cm)
Nationality American
Born (1955-01-29)January 29, 1955
Marion, Arkansas
Died April 9, 1998(1998-04-09) (aged 43)
Knoxville, Tennessee
Boxing record
Total fights 37 (professional)
Wins 34
Wins by KO 23
Losses 3

John ("Johnny") Tate (January 29, 1955 in Marion, Arkansas – April 9, 1998 in Knoxville, Tennessee) was an American prizefighter and Olympic boxer, who held the World Boxing Association version of the World Heavyweight Championship from October 1979 to March 1980, losing the title in his first defence.

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.

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 2 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. However, the former champion was easily defeated by Berbick. He was 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. The Knox County medical examiner stated that Tate "had been using cocaine regularly in the last 24 hours of his life."

Professional boxing record[edit]

34 Wins (23 knockouts), 3 Losses (2 knockouts)[5]
Res. Record Opponent Type Round
Date Location Notes
Loss 34–3 United Kingdom Noel Quarless PTS 10 1988–03–30 England York Hall, London
Win 34–2 United States Wesley Smith UD 4 1988–01–16 United States Viking Hall,
Bristol, Tennessee
Win 33–2 United States Mark Green KO 1 (6) 1987–12–19 United States Bristol, Tennessee
Win 32–2 United States Calvin Jones MD 4 1987–11–28 United States Bristol International Speedway,
Bristol, Tennessee
Win 31–2 United States Steve Eisenbarth TKO 1 (6) 1986–04–17 United States Civic Auditorium,
Bakersfield, California
Win 30–2 United States Marty Capasso KO 2 (10) 1983–08–19 United States West Palm Beach Auditorium,
West Palm Beach, Florida
Win 29–2 United States Donnie Long UD 10 1983–04–10 United States Hilton Pittsburgh,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Win 28–2 United States Danny Sutton TKO 5 (10) 1983–01–13 United States Bristol, Tennessee
Win 27–2 United States Bruce Grandham KO 3 1982–08–27 United States Bristol, Tennessee
Win 26–2 United States Leroy Boone UD 10 1982–07–08 United States Knoxville, Tennessee
Win 25–2 United States Leroy Caldwell UD 10 1982–03–25 United States Showboat Hotel and Casino,
Las Vegas, Nevada
Win 24–2 United States Chuck Gardner KO 1
1981–11–27 United States Knoxville, Tennessee
Win 23–2 United States Barry Funches TKO 7 (10) 1981–10–15 United States Sands Casino Hotel,
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Win 22–2 United States Clayman Parker TKO 1 (10) 1981–08–08 United States Knoxville, Tennessee
Win 21–2 United States Harvey Steichen UD 10 1981–02–15 United States Knoxville Civic Coliseum,
Knoxville, Tennessee
Loss 20–2 Canada Trevor Berbick KO 9 (10)
1980–06–20 Canada Olympic Stadium,
Montreal, Quebec
Loss 20–1 United States Mike Weaver KO 15
1980–03–31 United States Stokely Athletic Center,
Knoxville, Tennessee
Lost WBA Heavyweight title.
Win 20–0 South Africa Gerrie Coetzee UD 15 1979–10–20 South Africa Loftus Versfeld Stadium,
Pretoria, Gauteng
Won vacant WBA Heavyweight title.
Win 19–0 South Africa Kallie Knoetze KO 8 (12)
1979–06–02 Bophuthatswana Independence Stadium,
Mmabatho, Bophuthatswana
Win 18–0 United States Duane Bobick KO 1 (10)
1979–02–17 United States Market Square Arena,
Win 17–0 United States Ron Draper KO 5 1978–12–09 United States Cobo Arena,
Win 16–0 United States Roy Wallace KO 9 (10) 1978–10–14 United States Houston
Win 15–0 United States Johnny Boudreaux SD 10 1978–08–26 United States Houston
Win 14–0 United States Walter Santemore KO 6 (10)
1978–07–07 United States Orlando Sports Stadium,
Orlando, Florida
Win 13–0 Colombia Bernardo Mercado TKO 2 (10)
1978–06–22 United States Madison Square Garden,
New York City
Win 12–0 Argentina Reinaldo Gorosito KO 2 (10) 1978–05–13 United States Orlando, Florida
Win 11–0 United States Harold Carter DQ 4 1978–04–25 United States Orlando, Florida
Win 10–0 United States Leon Shaw KO 7 (10)
1978–03–14 United States Orlando, Florida
Win 9–0 United States James Dixon KO 3 1978–01–29 United States Knoxville, Tennessee
Win 8–0 United States Charlie Jordan KO 1 1977–12–03 United States Knoxville, Tennessee
Win 7–0 United States Frank Schram TKO 1 (6) 1977–11–18 United States Caesars Palace,
Paradise, Nevada
Win 6–0 United States Lou Esa KO 3 (6) 1977–10–22 United States Aladdin Theatre,
Paradise, Nevada
Win 5–0 United States Eddie Lopez MD 6 1977–09–13 United States Grand Olympic Auditorium,
Los Angeles
Win 4–0 United States Walter Santemore PTS 6 1977–08–23 United States Memphis, Tennessee
Win 3–0 United States Baker Tinsley KO 2 (6) 1977–08–20 United States Pikeville High School Gym,
Pikeville, Kentucky
Win 2–0 United States Norm Kues KO 1 (6)
1977–06–01 Canada Montreal Forum,
Win 1–0 United States Jerry Thompkins TKO 5 (6)
1977–05–07 United States Kiel Auditorium,
St. Louis


Preceded by
Muhammad Ali
Heavyweight boxing champion (WBA)
October 20, 1979 – 1980
Succeeded by
Mike Weaver

External links[edit]