For Tate-Coetzee, Southern Sun paid all expenses including the two fighters' purses: $400,000 for Tate and $300,000 for Coetzee. Arum received 40% of the live gate—after the hotel group deducted expenses—plus all television money. NBC, which telecast the fight live, paid $400,000, and another $250,000 came in from foreign TV rights. Arum's share of souvenir concessions brought him an additional $250,000. "Can you believe this?" he said. "From just the souvenir spinoffs I make a quarter of a million. That's more than I make on a whole normal promotion in the States."
In Coetzee's camp, set up in a Johannesburg firehouse, there was talk of the South African's speed, of Tate's using elbows or resorting to other equally foul tactics, and, of course, Coetzee's "bionic" vaunted right hand. Badly shattered in a fight in 1977, the bones of the hand had been fused by the ingenious insertion of eight metal pins, which were later removed. It was the hand that had knocked out Leon Spinks in Monte Carlo last June in a title elimination bout.
Said Hal Tucker, Coetzee's attorney and unofficial manager, "The other day we timed him in 50-flat for 400 meters. Now that's fast." One had to wonder if the South African was going to be in a fight or a footrace. Still, 50-flat is fast and more than a little improbable.
It was speed of both foot and hand that won the first three rounds at Pretoria for the 24-year-old Coetzee, who came in exceptionally heavy at 222. (He weighed 210 for Spinks.) Tate started slowly, which is his pattern, and in the third round took a big right hand to the head, which buckled his knees momentarily. Recovering quickly, he ripped a right of his own to Coetzee's jaw.
For Tate and his people, the South African's punch had answered the only question they were in doubt about. The bionic right was overrated. A confident Tate came out strong in the fourth round, carrying the fight to Coetzee, who suddenly had to discover if he could fight going backward. He could, but not very well.
Coetzee won the fifth round, but he was not to win another as Tate, who was beginning to work on the body, slowly wore him down. By the 10th round the fight had become so dull that only national pride was keeping the fans awake.
From that point Coetzee appeared to be confused. He looked to his corner for help. Over the last three rounds only his determination kept the fight going. Badly spent, he survived on courage.
And then, when it was over, Tate, now 20-0 as a pro since winning a bronze medal in the 1976 Olympics, mentioned something about fighting Larry Holmes. Easy does it. Give it at least a year, Big John.