Much as he battled in the boxing ring, former world heavyweight boxing champion and Akron native Michael “Dynamite” Dokes fought cancer until the end.
And a few weeks before his death late Saturday night, Mr. Dokes gave encouragement to an up-and-coming young Akron boxer, just as others had done for him when he was dreaming of being a boxing champ.
Mr. Dokes, who turned 54 on Friday, died of liver cancer at the Hospice of Visiting Nurse Service Justin T. Rogers Care Center in Copley Township.
He became the World Boxing Association heavyweight champion by defeating Michael Weaver in 1982. He lost the title to Gerrie Coetzee at the Richfield Coliseum in September 1983.
Mr. Dokes became the Amateur Athletic Union Heavyweight champion in 1975 and the National Golden Gloves champion in 1976.
Mr. Dokes, a graduate of Akron South High School, got national attention in the late 1970s when he took part in an exhibition with Muhammad Ali.
Along with the glory, Mr. Dokes also had difficult days in his life.
In 1986, he was arrested in Las Vegas for cocaine trafficking and he served two years’ probation.
In 2000, Mr. Dokes was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty in 1999 to attempted murder, second-degree kidnapping and intent to commit sexual assault in a 1998 incident involving his girlfriend. He was paroled in 2008.
According to the website www.boxrec.com, Mr. Dokes had a final record of 53 wins, six losses and two draws in his career.
He came back to live in Akron a few years ago after he was paroled.
Brother Kevin Dokes, 51, of Dayton, said Mr. Dokes was forever loyal to his family and friends.
As a boxer, Mr. Dokes battled cancer with great strength until the end, his brother said.
“He was a great brother,” he said. “He was a leader and he taught us a lot.”
His father, Gordon Dokes, who died last year, was also a boxer, Kevin Dokes said. Their mother, Sopora Dokes, who died in 2000, encouraged her son to get into boxing.
Kevin Dokes, who traveled with his brother during his career, said he was doing some “street fighting” as a youngster and his mother pushed him to channel that energy into the boxing ring.
“She was his inspiration,” he said.
He said their sister, Alisa Dokes Williams, cared for their brother at her Akron home the last few years.
“It was a great ride,” he said of his brother’s life.
The boxer’s longtime friend, Russell Dossie, said he was saddened by the loss of Mr. Dokes.
Dossie, a one-time sparring partner and former vice president of the Summit County Hall of Fame Boxing Association, said that Mr. Dokes could have been “one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time because of his speed and endurance.”
As a boxer, Mr. Dokes “was able to take a punch. He was big and fast. He could have been the next Muhammad Ali,” Dossie said.
Just three weeks ago, Dossie said, he took Kenmore High School boxer DeMarcus Minter, 16, to visit Mr. Dokes at his sister’s home in Akron. DeMarcus won the heavyweight Junior Olympic title June 22 in Mobile, Ala.
The ailing one-time world champion took time to talk to the young boxer.
“He congratulated him and told him to listen and be smart,” Dossie said.
Mr. Dokes told DeMarcus “it takes hard work” to be a winning boxer.
Dossie said DeMarcus responded, “Yes, sir.”
Dossie remembers the night that Mr. Dokes beat Weaver for the championship.
He was ringside and just turned his head to make a bet with someone from Weaver’s family when the crowd roared.
In the second he turned his head, he missed the referee signal that the fight was over and Mr. Dokes had won.
“He was a good friend,” Dossie said of Mr. Dokes.
Sonny Oliver of Akron met Mr. Dokes in 1971, when the young boxer was just 13. “You could see potential in him,” he said.
Oliver, the former Lightweight Champion of Akron who entered the local boxing hall of fame with Mr. Dokes two years ago, followed Dokes’ career and worked with him from 1980 to 1983.
“His hand speed was phenomenal,” Oliver said. “That was a plain gift of God.”
Oliver was a Dokes trainer who was in the corner with him when he boxed, and ran with him every morning as he was training.
“He was my hero,” Oliver said. “I loved him. He was my brother, my friend, and my buddy. I loved him dearly, unconditionally.”
In a 2010 Beacon Journal article before his induction in the local boxing hall of fame, Mr. Dokes said his biggest focus then was “trying to eradicate the cancer that I have.”
The Rhoden Memorial Home in Akron is handling arrangements.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at email@example.com.