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‘Big John’ Tate Killed in Accident

April 10, 1998

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ Former WBA heavyweight champion ``Big John″ Tate was killed Thursday when the pickup truck he was driving crashed into a utility pole. He was 43.

The accident occurred less than a mile from the old Ivy Glenn training camp Tate used after he won the WBA title in Pretoria, South Africa, with a decision over a battered Gerrie Coetzee on Oct. 20, 1979.

Two passengers with Tate sustained minor injuries, according to Knoxville Police Lieutenant Bob Wooldridge.

Tate was killed instantly, according to Wooldridge, who said officers were investigating if the use of alcohol or drugs might have played a role in the accident.

Tate lost the title less than five months after his victory over Coetzee when he was knocked out in the 15th round by a left hook from Mike Weaver. The fight was held in Knoxville.

``Everywhere I went, it tormented me the way I lost to him. I guess it will always torment me,″ Tate said.

A bronze medalist in the 1976 Olympics, Tate made his professional debut in May 1977 by stopping Jerry Thompkins in five rounds.

He returned to the ring three months after the loss to Weaver and was knocked out by Trevor Berbick in the ninth round in Montreal.

A loss to Noel Quarless in London in 1988 sent Tate’s career and his life into a tailspin.

Tate, a native of West Memphis, Ark., admitted to a cocaine habit during a five-year period in the 1980s and served time in prison for convictions on petty theft and assault charges.

His career record was 34-3 with 23 knockouts.

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