Carl B. Coates Sr., 77, member of state's Boxing Hall of Fame

August 01, 2005|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Carl B. Coates Sr., a 1950s-era professional boxer who was inducted into the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame in 1988, died of complications from cancer of the esophagus Wednesday at St. Agnes HealthCare. The Baltimore resident was 77.

Mr. Coates boxed in 38 professional bouts between 1950 and 1955 and scored 24 wins, including a 10-round split decision against future world lightweight champion Joe Brown in September 1954.

Coates "was a great body-puncher and extremely strong for his size," said Buddy Ey, a former historian for the Veteran Boxers Association, International Ring 101. "Beating Joe Brown, that was something to be proud of."

Mr. Coates' fighting career was cut short in the mid-1950s when he suffered an eye injury. He would later go on to do utility work before becoming a longshoreman, a job he held for more than two decades, his family said. He retired in the 1990s.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Coates began his boxing career as an amateur with the Ringside Athletic Club in 1948, but financial and family pressures led him to turn pro two years later, according to an account written for his induction into the state Boxing Hall of Fame.

"He could hit you on the head and you'd have a headache for a week. He was a terrific puncher," said Elmer L. Barksdale, 73, a fellow professional boxer and longtime friend. The two met at Ringside and were inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame together.

Mr. Coates' bouts took him from Baltimore to Australia to New Orleans. In addition to Joe Brown, he would fight El Conscripto at the Coliseum in July 1954. But, unlike his bout with Mr. Brown, Mr. Coates would lose in a split decision to the Mexican welterweight champion.

Accounts in The Sun about his fights in the early 1950s showcased both his talent ("a crowd-pleasing type of fighter - strong, a slugger, fast and willing to take two to land one") and his growing family ("Baltimore's fighting father of six"). He and his first wife, the former Leah Dixon, ultimately had eight children. Their marriage ended in divorce but the two remained close, family members said. A second marriage also ended in divorce.

Mr. Coates started off strong, scoring far more knockouts and wins than losses, but by 1954, he was losing more, according to statistics in Nat Fleischer's Ring Record Book.

The book records his last fight as a loss to Mickey Northrup on Sept. 8, 1955.

Family members said an injury outside the ring cost him his sight in one eye and forced him from the sport.

But he kept a "wonderful scrapbook" of his career, according to his daughter Charisse Brown of Fayetteville, N.C. He also trained both of his sons in the boxing ring, although neither decided to take up boxing professionally, according to the Hall of Fame account.

Years later, he joined Ring 101, the local boxing veterans chapter, and attended many of its meetings and functions, said Ray H. Leonard Jr., a past president of the organization.

"He was a very nice man. He was a helluva fighter," Mr. Leonard said. "He came up from the old school - none of those flashy things."

Mr. Coates was "an upfront guy," Mr. Barksdale said. "He gave sound advice. He always had a good word for the young [people] behind us. He led by example."

Another daughter, Debra Coates of Baltimore, said she remembers him using songs to teach his children the alphabet and how to spell their names. Mr. Coates always stressed the importance of education and home ownership, she said.

"He was just a loving, strong father and grandfather," she said.

Services are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. tomorrow at Vaughn C. Greene Funeral Services, 5151 Baltimore National Pike.

In addition to his two daughters, Mr. Coates is survived by his wife of 17 years, the former Doretha Hines of Baltimore; four other daughters, Romaine Coates, Terrie Becton and Lynn Ellison, all of Augusta, Ga., and Barbara Manuel of Baltimore; a son, Carl Coates Jr. of Beltsville; a sister, Nancy Jackson of Baltimore; 24 grandchildren; 28 great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandson. A son, Larry Coates, died in 1995.

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