Coolidge boxed like he did everything in is life - head on and with everything he had
By Bill Tibbs
I just got off the phone with him last Sunday and I am in shock.
The Knucklehead Boxing Fraternity lost a brother when word got out of the passing of former Minnesota middleweight Bob “Iceman” Coolidge who died at the all too-young age of 67. Coolidge had survived a serious heart procedure a year or so ago and was spending his winter in the warm climes of Arizona. On the Sunday we spoke, he told me he hadn’t been feeling well as of late but had recently visited a doctor in Arizona, and things appeared alright. However, travelling back to Minnesota Bob suffered a heart attack and sadly passed; Bob had his wife Bonnie with him which was a blessing.
Bob had kept in touch with me, like he did many people, by sending me texts regularly. Each text would be an inspiring little message to cherish the moment and seize the day, a choice Bob made everyday of his life. He was as tough on the outside as he was warm and endearing on the inside.
Bob grew up in what we shall refer to as an ‘affordable’ part of Omaha, Nebraska. The neighbourhood, rightly referred to by most as ‘the hood’, was tough, but it wasn’t tougher than Bob - few things were. Later, Coolidge joined the Marines and would remain a proud Marine for the rest of his life. After leaving the service, Bob, now living in Minnesota, was raising his sons with his wife “Moe” (Holly) when she was sadly taken by cancer at a young age. Devastated but not defeated, Bob found a way to carry on for his sons Jason, “JD” (Jeremy Donald) and Van. Working a factory job Bob decided he wanted to box, eventually turning pro where he would run up a very respectable 21-3-1 (17 KO’s). It should be noted that 2 of the 3 losses on Coolidge’s record came against former world champion Bobby Czyz and former British middleweight champion, and world middleweight title challenger (Marvelous Marvin Hagler no less), Tony Sibson.
Coolidge boxed like he did everything in is life - head on and with everything he had. Nobody was ever going to accuse Coolidge of being the slickest fighter out there, but you’d be pressed to find anyone tougher. Coolidge had a good chin and could crack. If Coolidge caught you with his left hook he could take you out - he had power.
After banking 25 fights in 3 years, Coolidge decided it was time to settle into his full time career which he did as a Minnesota corrections officer. Bob led the extraction team at the penitentiary he worked at and had all of the respect of his fellow officers and prisoners. When I interviewed Bob a couple years back, in discussing his career, he told me, “If you had to come out of that cell and didn’t want to comply, I was gonna get you out. I respected the inmates, but at the end of the day, one way or another, I was gonna get that man out. I had to tangle with a few of them to do it and that was ok too”, he said.
In retirement, Bob, now remarried to his lovely wife Bonnie, cherished spending time walking and running with his bulldogs. Those dogs worshipped their dad and Bob loved them equally right back. Another thing that became a passion of Bob’s was running. He eventually became a marathon runner and ran too many to count before this knees said it was time to stop. After he recovered from his initial heart attack, Coolidge banked a lot of miles on his daily walks with his dogs in Arizona.
Reached at his home in Las Vegas, longtime boxing man Pete Susens, who handled Coolidge for every fight of his professional career, was clearly saddened by the news of his former fighter but had nothing but found memories.
“Bob was one of my fighters throughout his career, but we became and remained lifelong friends after”, said Susens. “Bob wasn’t the fastest or the slickest fighter out there but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who was more game, and he was real tough. If he could hit you on the button he was gonna take you out because he could lay you out with that hook. Anybody who got in the ring with Bob, win or lose, knew they had been in a fight”, said Susens. “But, he fought like he conducted himself throughout his life”, continued Susens. “He decided he was gonna fight so he drove 75 miles, one way, to the Police Gym in Minnesota to train, from his home out in the country, this is after working the all-night shift at his factory job”, said Susens. “It needed to be done if he was gonna box, so he did it”, he said. “After boxing he decided he was gonna take up running and he eventually became a very accomplished marathon runner; he was a very determined and dedicated guy on what he wanted to do. When he boxed he hated running, but when he retired you couldn’t stop him” said Susens with a laugh. “Bob could chat with anyone and had a great sense of humour, but in other ways he was a real serious, stern guy. If he wanted to get something done, he’d do whatever it took to get it done”, he said. “As I said before, Bob and I initially connected through boxing but we remained lifelong friends after that”, said Susens. “I grew to have so much respect for him. He was a friend and I am going to miss and I’m deeply saddened by his loss - he was a good man”.
Coolidge grew up with no advantages and made every break for himself in his life through hard work. A father, husband, corrections officer, Marine, dog lover, marathon runner and a professional fighter - a pretty impressive resume.
But at the end of it all, it was clear that his greatest accomplishment in life was his family. “I have been married to two great ladies and I have the greatest sons a father could ask for” he once told me, “I wake up everyday and feel like the luckiest guy on earth”.
Gone but not forgotten.
Rest in peace, Champ!