Curtis Cokes, a Hall of Fame boxer who held the world welterweight title in the late 1960s, died of heart failure Friday, according to the Dallas Morning News. He was 82.
Cokes took the welterweight title in 1966 with a win over Manuel Gonzalez and successfully defended his title five times before falling to José Nápoles in 1969. He was the first boxing world champion in Dallas history and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2003.
Known for a counterpunching style not popular with some fans, according to the Morning News, Cokes prided himself on the punches he avoided as much as the ones he threw:
“The name of the sport is boxing, not fighting,” Cokes told The Dallas Morning News in 2013. “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.
“It’s an art to hit and not be hit.”
Rest in peace to former welterweight champion, Curtis Cokes who has sadly died, aged 82 🌹 pic.twitter.com/8FGRf92ioa— b0xingfan (@b0xingfan) May 30, 2020
The referee of Cokes’ first title win also remembered his rise, which was slow without a top trainer. He was also unable to compete in Golden Gloves growing up due to being black:
“Curtis wasn’t a punk kid who won the title,” Cole told The News in 2013. “He was almost 30 years old and had paid his dues. He struggled to get there. Dallas never did him any favors. And there he was with that hammer he had for a right hand, winning as our champion.”
Cokes retired with a record of 62-14-4, then went onto become a trainer. He was in hospice for a week before his death, per the Morning News.