History | Apr 09 2018

On This Day: The tragic tale of heavyweight boxing champion John Tate reaches its end

James Slater on John Tate, the talented heavyweight destined to end his life in misery
john tate
John Tate

THINGS started out so promisingly for Tennessee heavyweight boxer “Big” John Tate.

Tall, athletic and possessing an impressive physique, the man who was born in Arkansas in January of 1955 (later relocating to Knoxville) began boxing as a teenager and made fast progress, with Tate defeating future champions Mike Dokes and Greg Page in amateur tournaments. Tate then boxed in the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

The 6’4”  talent had to settle for a bronze medal, having been halted inside a round by Cuban legend and ’76 gold medal winner Teofilo Stevenson. A pro career was undertaken the following year and Tate, trained by the knowledgeable Ace Miller, made fast progress here too. Picking up good wins over the likes of the dangerous Bernardo Mercado, Duane Bobick and Kallie Knoetze, all of whom were KO’d by Tate, the 24-year-old was, in October of 1979, given a crack at the vacant WBA title.


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