By Jackie Kallen
It has been a bad year so far for boxing deaths. LeRoy Neiman, Bert Sugar, Bill Miller, and now former heavyweight champ Michael Dokes. “Dynamite” Dokes lost his battle to liver cancer after a noble, but futile fight. He was 54 years old.
I first met Michael in 1985 when he was in Las Vegas fighting Randall “Tex” Cobb for the WBC Continental Americas title. We had dinner with a group of people and he regaled us with stories of his amateur days. He was still pumped about his close fight with Cuba’s Teofilio Stevenson in the 1975 Pan Am Games. He predicted a KO against Cobb and he got it a few nights later in the 4th round.
He was also proud of his first-round KO of Mike Weaver in 1982. That fight earned him the WBA World Heavyweight title. Unfortunately, he lost the belt four months later when he faced South African Gerrie Coetzee in Ohio. It was a tough loss since it in Dokes’s backyard and he got stopped in the 10th round. Coetzee broke his hand so severely in the fight that he was off for a year and a half.
Although he was a strong man, Dokes had an uneven career. When he was good–he was great, knocking out more than half of his opponents. But when he was off his game, he did not shine nearly as brightly. He lost six fights along the way, getting stopped five times. But he lost to the elite of boxing: Bowe, Holyfield and Ruddock among others.
The fight against Holyfield, which went ten exciting rounds, was named by Ring magazine as The Heavyweight Fight of the Decade.
Dokes’s personal life was also uneven. Over the years he had issues with drugs, domestic violence, and served many years in prison for assault, drug trafficking, attempted sexual assault, etc. He lost his last two fights (in 1997) to club fighters and realized that it was time to hang them up.
To say that Dokes was flamboyant is an understatement. He was the Dennis Rodman of boxing. He wore mink coats, fedoras, gaudy jewelry and flashed his bright smile at every woman he saw. He once famously bathed in $20,000 worth of champagne and bragged that he trained for certain fights on “Jack Daniels and cocaine.”
In recent years, while battling his illness, he lived with family in Akron, Ohio. RIP, Dynamite.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen