SI Vault
 
THE BATTLE OF BOPHUTHATSWANA
Pat Putnam
November 03, 1980
A phony South African republic was the setting for the first title defense of WBA heavyweight champion Mike Weaver, who withstood Gerrie Coetzee's hardest shots before knocking the challenger out with a humongous right
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 03, 1980

The Battle Of Bophuthatswana

A phony South African republic was the setting for the first title defense of WBA heavyweight champion Mike Weaver, who withstood Gerrie Coetzee's hardest shots before knocking the challenger out with a humongous right

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

The turning point came in disguise, when Coetzee exploded a savage right hand against Weaver's jaw midway through the eighth round. Few men could have stood up under such a blow. But Weaver weathered it, and as Coetzee went back to his corner, he had the look of a man who had fired his biggest cannons and had left the enemy unscathed. Certainly nothing in the ninth round, in which Coetzee seemed content to let Weaver regain his senses, dispelled that impression.

The 10th round was uneventful, but in the 11th a short right hand, crisp and cutting, opened the bridge of Coetzee's nose. Twice in apparent panic the challenger wrestled Weaver to the ropes and crushed the champion backward, nearly sending him into the crowd.

In the following round, the same bullish tactic had Weaver snorting in anger until Celis finally got around to hauling Coetzee off. Suddenly a right uppercut by the champion snapped Coetzee's head back. The South African countered with another hug and another grab at the ropes.

During the one-minute rest period between rounds, Manuel ordered the champion to throw more right hands. "He's wide open, tear his damn head off," said the manager. Weaver responded, "Yeah, I'm sick of his grabbing."

Banging away from the start of the 13th, Weaver snapped Coetzee's head back again with a right and dug a hook deep into the tired body looming in front of him. Now stalking his confused foe, Weaver missed with a sweeping right hook, ignored one harmless jab, fired a straight left and followed in a flash with a smashing right hook to the head. Coetzee collapsed. He ended up on his back, his head thumping against the canvas. Slowly the South African rolled over. The silence of the crowd was chilling. At last Coetzee lurched upright, but too late. Celis signaled that he had failed to beat the count.

Celis' only other positive contribution was to have Weaver ahead at that point 117-113. Panamanian judge Amadeo Cedano had the champion on top by just two points, while Ove Ovesson of Denmark had Weaver in front by but one, which made one wonder what fight they were scoring.

Later Weaver said Coetzee had talked to him throughout the fight. "He kept yelling, 'I'm going to knock you out. I'm not tired.' I told him he'd already thrown his best shots and I was still there. Then he kept saying he wasn't hurt. I just laughed and asked him why he was staggering. All he wanted to do was talk and hug." Coetzee might have been wiser to order up an ox-blood cocktail.

1 2