Heavyweight fighter Michael Dokes: Obituary
Published: Sunday, August 12, 2012, 11:31 AM Updated: Sunday, August 12, 2012, 11:42 AM
By Joe Maxse, The Plain Dealer
AP PhotoHeavyweight boxer John Gardner of England begins to fall to the canvas following knockout punch by Michael Dokes of Akron, Ohio, in the fourth round of their scheduled 15-round bout at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, June 12, 1981. Dokes died Saturday night.
Michael Dokes always packed a punch. Nicknamed "Dynamite," the heavyweight fighter came out of Akron in the 1970s and made an immediate name for himself in the boxing ring.
He also set off on a life of excess when it came to drugs, alcohol and women.
Dokes, who turned 54 on Friday died in Akron on Saturday night after battling liver cancer for several years.
"It's hard to know what to say," said longtime friend Stanley Jackson of Cleveland. "I met him when he first turned pro. He was like a young son to me. I just know I loved him."
With his fast and powerful fists, Dokes was on the national boxing stage at age 15 when he made it to the finals of the national Golden Gloves tournament. He won the national AAU heavyweight championship in 1975 and the Golden Gloves title the following year.
"I remember some classic Golden Glove bouts between Michael and Cleveland's Freddie Bambino," said Clytee Dunn, veteran amateur official with USA Boxing's Lake Erie Association. "They were something."
Dokes turned professional and stopped Al Byrd in his first bout on Oct. 15, 1976 in Hollywood, Fla.
He was 25-0-1, with 14 knockouts, when he won the World Boxing Association heavyweight title with a first-round technical knockout of Mike Weaver at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Nev., on Dec. 10, 1982. In a rematch five months later, the bout was judged a majority draw and Dokes retained the title.
However, Dokes disappointed his hometown fans when he lost the title to Gerrie Coetzee on a 10th-round stoppage at The Coliseum in Richfield on Sept. 23, 1983.
Dokes admitted his drug use cost him the title. In an article in Sports Illustrated years later, Dokes said he trained for the fight "on cocaine and Jack Daniels."
"That fight should never have happened," Dokes told the Akron Beacon Journal in August 2010. "It's a fight I didn't live up to. I should never have brought it home."
Promoter Don King put on that fight in Richfield.
"Michael was a great fighter," said King. "He fought the good fight. It's unfortunate."
While Dokes remained a contender, he was unable to regain the championship. He lost pivotal bouts to Evander Holyfield in March 1989 and to Donovan Ruddock in April 1990.
In that latter bout, he was knocked unconscious for several minutes in the fourth round at Madison Square Garden. It was felt by some that Dokes' career should have been put to rest at that point.
He was given one more opportunity to reach the top. But that ended just as badly, with the fighter already showing the signs of decline both in and out of the ring.
Before his 1993 Madison Square Garden title bout against champion Riddick Bowe, Dokes enjoyed the New York limelight as he dined with followers and reporters. Weighing 244 pounds, Dokes did not back off from a plate of pasta as it would not hamper his training for the big fight.
"The past is history, the future isn't here yet, and the present is linguine and clam sauce," he told The Plain Dealer.
Dokes was stopped in the first round by Bowe. He earned $750,000.
He fought five more times after that, losing his final two bouts. He was stopped in the second round by Paul Phillips in his final bout on Oct. 11, 1997 in Erlanger, Ky., to finish with a career record of 53-6, with 34 knockouts.
In 1998, Dokes was arrested in Nevada on charges that he assaulted his girlfriend and sentenced to 10 years in prison. He had pleaded guilty to attempted murder, second-degree kidnapping and intent to commit sexual assault.
He was paroled in 2008.
He lived in Las Vegas before returning to Akron to live with relatives in 2010.
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