Curtis Cokes vs. Willie Ludick
1968-04-16 : Curtis Cokes 145¾ lbs beat Willie Ludick 146¼ lbs by TKO at 0:34 in round 5 of 15
- Location: Memorial Auditorium, Dallas, Texas, USA
- Referee: Lew Eskin 40-35 40-35 40-36
Editors' note: The following appeared in the final April 17, 1968 edition of The Dallas Morning News.
Cokes hammers out TKO in 5th
By SAM BLAIR / The Dallas Morning News
After travelling 14,000 miles and working three weeks in Dallas to prepare for his big moment, Willie Ludick lasted just slightly more than 12 minutes against world welterweight champion Curtis Cokes Tuesday night.
The largest boxing crowd in the city's history, and estimated 6,000, shelled out $52,000 to see the local boy defend his title, and Cokes rewarded them with a strong, cunning fight. Ludick, the pride of South Africa, was a stumbling, bloody figure when referee Lew Heskin stopped the massacre 34 seconds deep in the fifth round.
After he was led to his dressing room, Willie managed to grin, as though he had anticipated this brutal lesson all along. He asked if anyone had some beefsteak for his cuts, proving he hadn't lost his sense of humor while losing his one great opportunity for world recognition.
For Cokes, it was an evening of bristling brilliance. The champ, who came into the ring a half pound lighter than his challenger at 154 3/4 pounds, was constantly in command against an opponent who was strong and willing but far too shy of ring experience.
Curtis' biggest setback came near the end of the second round, when Ludick dazed him with one of his well-publicized butts. The gong sounded amid a barrage of boos. Cokes then steadied himself quickly and set out to prove he could make better use of Ludick's head.
There had been some furious exchanges in the first two rounds, with Cokes coming out ahead each time, but Curtis slowed the pace somewhat in the third. He was taking his time, measuring his opponent carefully, and lashing through openings with a punishing right hand.
There was more of the same in the fourth, but Cokes increased the tempo slightly. Ludick, who had started bleeding from a large cut around his right eye since the second round, now had more wounds on his face and it was obvious he was being drawn more and more into the fight Cokes wanted.
Cokes had planned a heavy right-hand assault against the left-hander from Johannesburg, and it all exploded in Willie's face in the fifth.
They clashed quickly in mid-ring when the round opened. Suddenly Curtis hammered him with four blows -- uppercut, right, right, uppercut.
Ludick, glassy-eyed, flopped to the canvas on the seat of his trunks. The crowd roared, figuring it was a knockout and the whole affair was over. But somehow Willie got on his feet.
He was a pitiful sight, wobbling toward the ropes and then dangling there like a puppet. But referee Heskin let him continue.
Cokes wasted no time ending it then. He bombarded Ludick with a half dozen blows and Heskin stepped in. He pinned Ludick to the ropes and signaled a technical knockout.
As Cokes danced about, Ludick wearily raised an arm and waved his tribute. He obviously had learned a lot the hard way in this one.
Manager Doug Lord and the rest of Cokes' party swarmed through the ropes. Then the champ's wife joined him in the ring and Cokes' night seemed complete.
Why not? He had won with brutal efficiency against a tough but crude challenger, greatly impressing a hometown crowd and a television audience across the nation. And it was his biggest pay night -- $50,000.
That's the amount guaranteed him by South Africa's Dave Levin, who underwrote all the expenses of the fight and served as co-promoter with Dallas' Norm Levinson.
Levinson, who earlier had talked of a $90,000 gate and 6,500 people, said the TV revenue would push the proceeds for the fight past $70,000. The best previous gate in Dallas camp in November, 1966, when Cokes staged his first local title defense against France's Jean Josselin. That one was said to be in the neighborhood of $50,000.
It was estimated the break-even figure for Tuesday night's fight was $72,000. Levin had said he didn't figure that was a gamble at all, that it was well worth it to give his countryman a shot at the title. And it had to be held outside South Africa. Ludick is white, Cokes is Negro and integrated competition is not allowed there.
So they got together in Big D -- for a little while anyway.
In the semifinal, scheduled for eight rounds, Dallas middleweight Cassius Greene hammered Johnny Wood of Johannesburg for four rounds and scored a technical knockout after 36 seconds of the fifth. It was an exciting fight, with the crowd giving Wood an ovation for staying on his feet although he was bloody and battered.
Willie Warren of Corpus Christi won a unanimous decision over Dickie Wills in a 6-rounder. Warren weighed 162, Wills 163. Ronnie Wright, 162 3/4, of Fort Worth, beat Cocoa Juarez, 156, of Monterrey, Mexico, on a TKO in the third round of a scheduled 4-rounder. And Pat Bishop, 137 3/4, of Dallas decisioned Bird Lopez, 139 3/4, of Fort Worth, in a 4-rounder.