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