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Dirty day in SA boxing recalled

Gerrie Coetzee. / Margot Williams
Gerrie Coetzee. / Margot Williams

Today marks exactly 43 years since South Africa witnessed one of the dirtiest local shootouts between Gerrie "Boksburg Bomber" Coetzee and Mike "The Tank" Schutte at Westridge Tennis Stadium in Durban.

Gerrie's SA heavyweight title was on the line for the first time since he won it with a ninth-round stoppage of Jimmy Richards on April 10 1976 at the Portuguese Hall, south of Johannesburg.

On the day he faced Schutte, August 16 1976, referee Bobby Mazzoni worked tirelessly to try and instil discipline.

Schutte applied every dirty tactic in the book - holding, hitting below the belt, elbowing, rabbit punches, kicking and head-butting. Eventually, Mazzoni disqualified him in the sixth round.

Schutte died in 2008 at the age of 57. Coetzee, meanwhile, went on to win the WBA title in 1983, knocking out American Michael Dokes in the 10th round of their 15-rounder.

That was Coetzee's third attempt at the crown, having lost to Americans "Big" John Tate at Loftus in Pretoria in 1979 and Mike "Hercules" Weaver in Sun City, North West, in 1980.

Coetzee became the first boxer from Africa to fight for and win a heavyweight championship. He lost it to American Greg Page, also in Sun City, in 1984. Coetzee retired in 1979 with 33 wins, 21 KOs, against six losses and a draw.

Coetzee, who turned 64 on April 8, lives in Cape Town.

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