Rest in Peace Curtis Cokes
By Bill Tibbs
The boxing world lost a true champion and legend in Dallas, Texas welterweight Curtis Cokes who passed on Friday, May 29, at age 82.
An International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee in 2003, Cokes was a sensational boxer and counterpuncher. And, if he landed that right-hand counter, there was a good chance you weren’t getting up because he had a hammer in that fist.
But, Cokes didn’t depend on that equalizer to get the job done, but he certainly did have it in his toolbox when he wanted to pull it out. He was a very smart boxer who looked to set you up, make you miss and make you pay.
No, Cokes wasn’t a Gatti-esque brawler but that was by choice. Speaking to the Dallas Morning News in 2013, Cokes said, “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 serious business where you can get hurt every time you step into the ring”, he said. “It’s an art to hit and not be hit.”
Cokes, (62-14-4, 30 KO’s), turned pro in 1958 and 8-years later, sitting at 44-8-2, in the summer of 1966, he won the WBA world welterweight title. Then, 2 fights later, he would add the WBC belt in November of ’66.
Over the next 3 years, going 11-1-1, he made 4 defences of his world titles before losing to Cuban legend Jose Napoles in Inglewood, California in the spring of 1969. He would lose the rematch 2 months later in Mexico. He would fight 11 times over the next 2 years going 7-3-1 before retiring in the fall of 1972.
Cokes would leave the ring as a world champion who garnered immense respect from everyone in boxing as a vastly talented boxer and puncher who certainly made his mark during his time in the ring.
After retiring, Cokes, who had a small part in the 1970’s cult classic, boxing movie, Fat City, would run a gym and train fighters working in boxing for the rest of his life.
A champion from an era of great fighters, and an era in boxing the likes of which we will never see again.
Speaking in 2013, Cokes said, “I have done things my way my whole life because that’s the way it had to be. On the other hand, I never had to take orders from anyone. And I think I’ve put up a good fight.”
Rest in peace, Champ!