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Khalilah Ali leads the chorus of praise singers to acclaim the glorious feats of Gerrie Coetzee

Published Jan 27, 2022

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Cape Town — Dr Khalilah Camacho Ali, the former wife of boxing icon Muhammad Ali, has led the chorus of praise singers to acclaim the glorious feats of Gerrie Coetzee.

The former South African boxer Coetzee became the first African to be crowned heavyweight champion of the world.

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In 1983, Coetzee, ring named the 'Boksburg Bomber' created history. He defeated American Michael Dokes to win the WBA belt. The conquest is regarded as one of the greatest sporting feats in South African history.

Khalilah Ali said the late Muhammad Ali told her about a South African white Afrikaner who was a passive anti-Apartheid campaigner.

"The story of Gerrie Coetzee is long, long overdue," said Khalilah Ali, when addressing the media at the launch of Coetzee's much-anticipated biopic Against All Odds in Cape Town.

"The world needs to know the story of Gerrie Coetzee. The world needs more people like Gerrie Coetzee. This man showed us what it is to happen compassion, and he did it bravely too.

"He defied the laws of the country because it were morally corrupt.

"This man had a good heart, and Muhammad Ali was aware of the good deeds he was doing in South Africa.

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"Where Gerrie Coetzee lived in America for a while, Muhammad Ali befriended him. They became genuine friends."

Koos Roets, the South African award-winning film director and cinematographer, will be heading up the production team. He will be joined by the acclaimed producer André Scholtz. Roets said the human element in the film Against All Odds was intriguing.

"It is not about the boxing. It is about a human being who reached great heights as a person," Roets told Independent Media during an interview.

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"Here is a man who had fought his life on three fronts during his boxing career.

"His first fight was against the opponent in the ring, and he achieved great things.

"His second fight was his hands, which were damaged throughout his career. It is not well-known, but when he won the WBA title in 1983 when he knocked out Michael Dokes in the 10th round, he did so with a broken hand.

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"There was no end to the treatment to his hands, and that's why he was known as 'The Bionic Hand'. Most boxing fans have lost count of the number of operations he had on his right hand, but it was more than 20.

"The third fight that Coetzee fought was against the politics of the country that he had made so famous with his fistic exploits around the globe. Thanks to Coetzee's upbringing, he knew what was right and what was wrong.

"He was not one to accept the wrongs in life and strived to be a good person. He was a living example for many in South Africa, and that's why this story is such an exhilarating one."

Executive producer Kenddrie Utuk of Hartquist Productions said Coetzee was pleased with the choice of SA martial artist Dricus du Plessis as the lead actor in the film. The Pretoria-born has become a sensation in UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) circles and has featured on Conor McGregor's last bill in Las Vegas, a few months ago.

"It is a privilege for me to play (uncle) Gerrie," said Du Plessis. "I have heard so much from my father and brothers about the great Gerrie Coetzee. He is not only great in South Africa but all over the world."

Du Plessis said he was overwhelmed when he was first approached to act in the movie. "I had to think hard about it because it cannot be easy to play the role of Gerrie Coetzee.

"Once I have done with the next UFC bout in April, I will devote myself to the film and do whatever it takes to make sure the film is a box office hit."

@Herman_Gibbs

IOL Sport

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