Michael Dokes vs. Gerrie Coetzee, Only Heavyweight Title Bout Between Two Fighters Coming Off Draws
By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
When we think of the heavyweight division, one outcome fight fans do not expect is a draw, at four, six, eight, 10, 12 or even 15 rounds (in the 15 round era). Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder drew over 12 rounds in the first world title bout of their trilogy at Staples Center in Los Angeles in 2018, with the World Boxing Council World Heavyweight title at stake. The late Jerry Quarry drew twice with Tony Alongi over 10 rounds, before drawing with former World Heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson over 10 rounds in June 1967. The late former World Heavyweight champion Ken Norton drew over 10 rounds with Scott LeDoux, coming off the canvas twice in the tenth round in August 1979. Evander Holyfield drew with Lennox Lewis in 2001 and John Ruiz in 2003 in World Heavyweight title bouts. Michael Dokes drew over 15 rounds with Mike Weaver in their World Boxing Association World Heavyweight title rematch in May 1983 in Las Vegas, Dokes having drawn in his first match against Ossie Ocasio in San Juan over 10 rounds in April 1980.
The late James J. Jeffries drew over 20 rounds twice, with Gus Ruhlin and Joe Choynski. The late Bob Fitzsimmons, another former World Heavyweight champion, drew 12 times, between 1886 and 1890, back in an era newspaper decision draws were more in fashion. Between 1900 and 1913, the late Jack Johnson, “The Galveston Giant”, had 11 draws, from Klondike Haynes in 1900 to Battling Johnson in a world title fight over 10 rounds in 1913. The late Jess Willard had a draw with Luther McCarty in Madison Square Garden over 10 rounds in August 1912.
The late Jack Dempsey had eight draws, including two 10-round draws with Johnny Sudenberg in 1915, and two four-round draws with Willie Meehan in 1917. The late Gene Tunney had a 10-round newspaper draw with KO Jaffe at the Polo Grounds in New York in July 1916 and had a 10-round draw with Harry Greb in the fourth of their five confrontations in September 1924 at Olympic Arena in Brooklyn. Jersey Joe Walcott had a 10-round draw with Billy Ketchell in August 1936. The late Ezzard Charles drew with Ken Overlin over 10 rounds in March 1942 at Music Hall Arena in Cincinnati, Ohio. Heavyweights Renaldo Snipes and Scott Frank drew over 10 rounds at Playboy Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City in a March 1982 televised bout. Main event heavyweights Ray Austin and Rydell Booker drew over six rounds in Detroit in November 2021.
The idea of this historical data is to qualify whereas draws are not common in the light heavyweight, cruiserweight and heavyweight divisions among the heavy hitters, they occurred and do occur from time to time. Draws are not common. Dokes versus Coetzee was unique in that both fighters were coming off heavyweight draws before their world heavyweight bout, a once-in-a-lifetime boxing occurrence.
When Michael “Dynamite” Dokes fought South Africa’s Gerrie Coetzee in Richfield, Ohio, in November 1983, Dokes was coming off the 15-round draw with Weaver in their rematch, while Coetzee was coming off a 10-round majority draw with 20-0 Pinklon Thomas at Sands Casino Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in January 1983. Coetzee knocked out Dokes, long in a drug and booze-induced fog, at 3:08 of the tenth round, as Dokes was counted out by referee Tony Perez. Both Coetzee and Dokes would lose their subsequent title bouts, Coetzee to Greg Page, Dokes to Riddick Bowe, and would never again be factors of contention in the heavyweight picture. In 1999, Dokes was sentenced to between four and 15 years in prison after being convicted of a drug-fueled rage attack on his fiancée in August 1998. In late 2008, Dokes was released on parole. Dokes remained mentally coherent in boxing interviews at boxing events after his release, speaking well of his management financially, but not well of his management in terms of boxing decisions. Dokes did not suffer from any boxing-related injury.
Dokes began using cocaine as an amateur at age 15. His rap sheet will show Dokes was arrested five times from 1986 on for drug use or violating probation. Finally, in April 1987, his luck ran out when Las Vegas police discovered 17 ounces of cocaine in his home. The prosecutor told the judge that Dokes was a man who “bought drugs like we buy potatoes.” Dokes incurred two narcotics related felonies and went through rehabilitation. By the time Dokes got another title shot against Riddick Bowe, he had defeated his greatest enemy drugs, replaced by his new enemy, food. Dokes, who liked fine clothes, French and Italian cuisine, had blown up to 290 pounds, and trained for Bowe by eating evening meals at a midtown Manhattan restaurant of garlic bread, Caesar salad, minestrone soup, shrimp scampi, linguine with clam sauce, and club soda.
“I’m not concerned about anything except finishing dinner and getting to the (nearby) New York Knicks game on time. I know how far to go with my conditioning and training,” noted Dokes, who by that point was in the boxing game solely for its paydays, was undisciplined, and not doing the hard work. Dokes’ drug habit caused him to go to prison for 10 years between 1998 and 2008. Dokes got out for four years, coherent, but hardened by time. Dokes died of liver cancer at a hospice in his native Akron, Ohio in August 2012, a day after his 54th birthday., down for the count. In May 2013, Coetzee was acquitted in Cape Town, South Africa, for failing to register himself as a dental hygienist due to lost documentation. Coetzee continues to work in the dental field today. A recent new movie, entitled “Against All Odds”, tells the story of Coetzee’s life.