Curtis Cokes, the first boxing world Champion of Dallas, who has died aged 82, leaves us with a legacy of great memories and a philosophy that all young and aspiring boxers would do well to heed.
A boxing artist who applied his brush strokes with care and precision, Curtis KO`d thirty opponents in a career of eighty fights, which spanned 1958-1972. A patient and watchful counter puncher of guile, Curtis possessed a potent right hand clout. Always willing and ready to capitalize on mistakes, and strictly adhering to the first rule of Boxing, to protect yourself at all times, Curtis perceptively observed: “The name of the sport is boxing not fighting. You can play football, you can play basketball, but you can`t play boxing. It`s a serious business!”
A talented basketball and baseball player, but weighing in at under one hundred and thirty pounds as a teenager, the powers that were, considered Curtis too small. Aged thirteen he started boxing at his local YMCA. But the shameful racism of the time, barred black boxers competing in the Golden Gloves Contest.
Curtis` first pro fight was against Manuel Gonzalez. They fought five times and coincidently Curtis fought and unanimously defeated Manuel for the vacant WBA welterweight crown in August 1966. Three months later he defeated Jean Josselin by UD to capture the WBC crown. He was a little shy of his thirtieth birthday. As undisputed world champion for three years Curtis fought thirteen times. Jose Napolis halted Curtis in April 1969 to take his crown and again in a rematch two months later. Curtis retired three years later with a superb record of 62-14-4, including 30 KO`s. He went on to train Quincy Taylor, Errol Spence, Kirk Johnson and Ike Ibeabuchi.
In mid career, Curtis had lost a ten round decision to Eddie Pace in August 1964, and decided to retire. But then, believing in himself, he came back and fought on to triumph…the smart way!
Curtis died of heart failure of Friday. He`d been cared for in a hospice for a week.
A gentleman, a man of dignity and a man of great class Curtis once said: “I never had to take order from anyone, and I think I put up a good fight.”
Dallas and the World will NEVER forget you Champ. You`ve done us PROUD! Rest in Peace.