1. GERRIE COETZEE was hoping to score a quick knockout when he defended his WBA heavyweight title against Greg Page on December 1 1984 in Sun City, South Africa. The American challenger was the clear underdog and came into the bout on the back of two successive points defeats – to Tim Witherspoon and David Bey.
2. THE champion was being lined-up for a money spinning showdown with Larry Holmes in 1985, and it was expected his huge right hand – that had accounted for the likes of Leon Spinks and Michael Dokes – could finish off the erratic Page.
3. BUT some curious events led to Page claiming the title. The 26-year-old fought aggressively which was uncharacteristic, the officiating from referee Isidro Rodriguez questionable, and the timekeeping diabolical.
4. THE fun started in the second round when Page charged from his corner at the bell and clumped Coetzee with a left while the South African was still facing his own corner, and had this back to his opponent. Coetzee’s corner was certainly slow to leave after minute break, but Rodriguez was far from blameless.
5. COETZEE – who was not fighting well – had grounds for complaint again at the end of the sixth round. Page clattered the champion with several blows after the bell which caused Coetzee to fall. Page was warned, but not punished. Still dazed as the seventh session began, Coetzee was floored with a legal right hand. He beat the count, and rallied back, his courage initiating a stirring exchange between the fighters.
6. THE ending to the Don King-promoted fight came in round eight. The electronic clock was not working and the bell did not sound at the three-minute mark of the round. The oblivious fighters fought on, Coetzee having some success before a Page responded with a series of blows. A big left hook sent the champ crashing to the canvas. The referee counted him out at 3 minutes and 48 seconds. Coetzee should have been sat on his stool in the minute break, but instead he was an ex-champion.
7. COETZEE’S camp complained furiously. Many expected the result to be overturned. But in the end, it stood. The WBA ruled that they were satisfied that the contest had been conducted according to the rules and that Page was indeed their new champion.
8. PAGE earned $500,000 for the controversial encounter whereas Coetzee’s disappointment eased, slightly perhaps, by his $800,000 bounty that he insisted was paid to him in South African rands.
9. THE new champion lost his belt in his first defence. Tony Tubbs decisioned Page in a dull fight in 1985. Two years later, the Kentuckian was drifting out of the world rankings altogether after a series of disappointing showings. The likes of Mark Wills, and an ageing Joe Bugner, were getting their arms raised against Page. But he fought on until 2001 when Dale Crowe knocked him out in 10 rounds. Page was left seriously injured as a result of that defeat, and died eight years later as his health deteriorated rapidly.
10. COETZEE’S days as a world class fighter were over in 1986 when Frank Bruno flattened him inside a round. He made a comeback in the following decade but eventually retired after losing to an eroded former champion, Iran Barkley, in 1997.