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Former heavyweight champion Gerrie Coetzee dead at 67

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Legendary boxer and former WBA heavyweight champion Gerrie Coetzee has died more than a week after being diagnosed with lung cancer, his manager confirmed Friday. He was 67. 

Coetzee, who was considered a unifying force in South Africa during the height of apartheid, passed away in Cape Town on Thursday, his manager Thinus Strydom told The Associated Press. 

Gerrie Coetzee, left, lands a punch against Michael Dokes during the fight at Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. Coetzee won by a KO in the 10th round. 

Gerrie Coetzee, left, lands a punch against Michael Dokes during the fight at Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. Coetzee won by a KO in the 10th round. 
(The Ring Magazine via Getty Images)

Strydom said Coetzee had been diagnosed with cancer for over a week before his death. 

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Coetzee famously knocked out Michael “Dynamite” Dokes in the 10th round in Richfield, Ohio, in 1983 to win the WBA title and become the first African boxer to win a world heavyweight title. 

Gerrie Coetzee, right, knocks down Michael Dokes during the fight at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. Coetzee won the WBA World Heavyweight Title by a KO in the 10th round. 

Gerrie Coetzee, right, knocks down Michael Dokes during the fight at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. Coetzee won the WBA World Heavyweight Title by a KO in the 10th round. 
(The Ring Magazine via Getty Images)

He also became the first White boxer to win a world heavyweight title in more than 20 years. He denounced the nickname “The Great White Hope” that was given to him at the time. 

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“I feel I am fighting for everybody, Black and White,” he said. “What makes me happy is for Black, Brown and White people to accept me as their fighter.”

Coetzee, known as “The Bionic Hand” because of the numerous hand surgeries he underwent during his career, held a record of 33-6-1. He won 21 fights by way of knockout. 

Gerrie Coetzee, left, throws a left punch against Michael Dokes during the fight at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. Coetzee won the WBA World Heavyweight Title by a KO in the 10th round.

Gerrie Coetzee, left, throws a left punch against Michael Dokes during the fight at the Richfield Coliseum in Richfield, Ohio. Coetzee won the WBA World Heavyweight Title by a KO in the 10th round.
(The Ring Magazine via Getty Images)

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According to Yahoo Sports, Coetzee broke his hand during the fight against Dokes and underwent hand surgery just five days later. In total, he had 23 surgeries on his hands. 

Coetzee lost his title in December 1984 and would never claim it again. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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