Born June 15, 1937 in Dallas, TX. A gifted athlete, Cokes excelled at baseball and basketball but at age17 began boxing at his hometown YMCA. He turned pro in 1958 and by 1961 was a top-ten contender having racked up victories over Rip Randall, Joe Miceli and draws with Kenny Lane and Hall of Famer Luis Rodriguez.
In 1965 he won both the Texas State and Southern welterweight titles before entering the WBA welterweight elimination tournament designed to fill the vacancy left when champion Emile Griffith moved to middleweight. On July 6, 1966 he TKO'd Rodriguez in the 15th round and followed with a 15-round decision over Manny Gonzalez in August 1966 to capture the championship. Next he defeated Jean Josselin in Dallas to win the vacant world welterweight title and universal recognition as champion. Cokes successfully defended his laurels four times before Hall of Famer Jose Napoles TKO'd him in the 13th round to relieve him of his title on April 18, 1969. Napoles TKO'd Cokes in a rematch two months later.
Cokes continued to box until 1972 but never got another crack at the world title. Regarded as a counter-puncher, he delivered one of the greatest straight right hands in the division's history. Cokes retired with a 62-14-4 (30 KOs) record.
He found success outside of the ring, appearing in the acclaimed boxing film Fat City and since 1985 has been a full-time trainer, guiding the careers of former middleweight champion Quincy Taylor and heavyweight contender Kirk Johnson among others.
Born: June 15, 1937
Died: May 29, 2020