Curtis Cokes, boxing's first ever world champion from Dallas, has died at the age of 82, but leaves with a legacy of great memories and a philosophy that all young and aspiring boxers would do well to heed.
A boxing artist who applied his strokes with care and precision, Curtis KO'd 30 opponents in a career spanning 80 fights, during 1958-1972.
A patient and watchful counter puncher with guile, Cokes possessed a potent right hand. Always willing and ready to capitalize on mistakes, and strictly adhering to the first rule of Boxing - to protect yourself at all times - Curtis perceptively observed: “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 a serious business!”
A talented basketball and baseball player, but weighing in at under 130-pounds as a teenager, the powers that were considered Curtis too small. Aged 13, he started boxing at his local YMCA, but shameful racism of the time barred black boxers from competing in the Golden Gloves Contest.
Curtis' first pro fight was against Manuel Gonzalez. They fought five times and coincidently Curtis fought and unanimously defeated Manuel for the vacant WBA welterweight crown in August 1966. Three months later he defeated Jean Josselin by UD to capture the WBC crown. He was a little shy of his 30th birthday.
As undisputed world champion for three years Curtis fought 13 times. Jose Napolis halted Curtis in April 1969 to take his crown and again in a rematch two months later. Curtis retired three years later with a superb record of 62-14-4, including 30 KO's.
He went on to train Quincy Taylor, Errol Spence, Kirk Johnson and Ike Ibeabuchi.
In mid career, Curtis had lost a ten round decision to Eddie Pace in August 1964, and decided to retire. But then, believing in himself, he came back and fought on to triumph…the smart way!
Curtis died of heart failure on Friday, May 29. He had been cared for in a hospice for a week.
A gentleman, a man of dignity and a man of great class Curtis once said: “I never had to take order from anyone, and I think I put up a good fight.”
The World Boxing Council paid tribute to the legend: "Dallas and the World will NEVER forget you Champ. You've done us PROUD! Rest in Peace."
Boxing News Now would also like to pay their respects to the champ and to wish his family and friends all the very best during this difficult time.