As Dokes attempted to duck away, Coetzee banged a right off the back of his head and then brought him back into range with a backhand sweep of his left. Dokes fell back into the same corner. A jab sailed over Dokes's right shoulder, and then a right cross slammed into the side of his head. As the champion's eyes rolled up, Coetzee stepped back. He had felt the pain of the hand giving way.
"But I thought," he would say later, "to hell with the pain. I've got him going; I've got to hit him again." Stepping in, he crashed a right to the chin, which sent Dokes toppling semiconscious to the floor. Two seconds later the bell rang, and Coetzee's heart plunged into his stomach. He had done everything right, except to read the rule book.
The fight's aftermath was bittersweet for the Coetzee family. Seventeen hours later Rina, who had attended the fight, gave birth by cesarian section to their third child, a seven-pound, 12-ounce daughter, Tana. And Dr. Jock Lewin, a South African physician, determined that Coetzee had refractured his right hand between the index and middle fingers.
Meanwhile, the reaction in South Africa, where the fight was televised starting at 4:22 a.m. Saturday, was hysterical. Newspapers rushed out extra editions with six-inch-high headlines. There was jubilation in both the white and black sections of segregated Johannesburg. Government leaders, including President Marais Viljoen, Prime Minister Peter Willem Botha and Foreign Minister Roelof F. Botha, sent congratulatory telegrams.
"I must thank the American people, especially the black people, for being so good to me wherever I went," Coetzee said after the fight. "They accepted me as a sportsman." But would he defend his title back in South Africa?
"I want to defend my title where I won it," he said. "I want to be a people's champion, and I want to be a champion America can be proud of."
If Don King, who holds options on Coetzee's fights for as long as he holds the title, has any say, South Africa is out of the question. But a black-white championship confrontation may not be.
"In that case," said WBC heavyweight champion Larry Holmes Saturday from his home in Easton, Pa., "they might think about giving me a call about a unification fight. All they have to do is get the WBC and WBA to agree. I always said I wouldn't fight him in South Africa, but I never said I wouldn't fight him here. Not if the money is right. I've always said that there is only one real heavyweight champion. I wouldn't mind at all another chance to prove it."