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On this day in 1979: Gerrie Coetzee takes on John Tate for WBA heavyweight title

20 October 2020 10:13 AM
Tags:
Soweto
Pretoria
Loftus Versfeld
APARTHEID
Boxing
World Boxing Association
Washington Post
Gerrie Coetzee
John Tate
WBA
heavyweight boxing

Exactly 41 years ago today, at the height of apartheid, 81K spectators watched African American John Tate take on Gerrie Coetzee.

On this day (20 October) in 1979, the World Boxing Association’s heavyweight title fight controversially took place in apartheid South Africa.

John Tate, an African American, came up against Gerrie Coetzee, a white South African.

© destinacigdem/123rf.com

It was the first time black South Africans were allowed into Loftus Versfeld as spectators.

About 81 000 people crammed into the stadium.

At the time it was the most spectators at a boxing match in more than half a century.

When Washington Post asked black South Africans who they’re rooting for, one of them replied:

Gerrie Coetzee is a wonderful person; handsome, good-natured, honest and, most important, a gentleman . . . But to me, a black South African… This country's policies have drummed it into me that I must never hope to have a white man as a friend nor as a countryman, for that matter... To us it is not Coetzee vs. Tate, it is not South Africa vs. America. It is black vs. white. We cannot help it . . . My sympathies are with Gerrie . . . who is truly a great fellow . . . But it's Tate for me.

Black South African interviewed by Washington Post

Tate’s victory caused, according to the Post, “dancing in the streets of Soweto”.


For more detail, read this Washington Post article, published on 24 October 1979.



20 October 2020 10:13 AM
Tags:
Soweto
Pretoria
Loftus Versfeld
APARTHEID
Boxing
World Boxing Association
Washington Post
Gerrie Coetzee
John Tate
WBA
heavyweight boxing

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