Former Marine Michael Coffie Has a New Mission: World Champion

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The rising undefeated heavyweight takes a major step toward his world title aspirations when he faces veteran contender Gerald Washington Saturday night on FOX PBC Fight Night.

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Coffie vs Rock - Watch Fight Highlights | January 30, 2021

When Michael Coffie knocked out the previously undefeated Darmani Rock with a picturesque left hook in January, the punch was so flawless it seemed to have been conceived in a boxing gym through many years of training. 

It wasn’t.  

While Coffie has the look and moves of an accomplished veteran — he could be seen changing his stance from orthodox to southpaw against Rock, a maneuver that heavyweights are usually loath to do — in truth, he is anything but a finished product.  

At 35, Coffie is a latecomer to the sport, having fought only 12 times and amassed 36 rounds since turning pro less than four years ago. Before then, the Brooklyn product spent just a year in the amateurs, stats that don't usually spell success for would-be champions and certainly don't explain his rapid ascent or the smooth way he carries himself in the ring.  

Coffie’s physical gifts have certainly played a role in his success — Coffie is an imposing 6-5, 260 pounds with an iron chin and fluid movements. The key figure to focus on to gain insight into his upward trajectory is his age.

Coffie (12-0, 9 KO’s) has yet to amass a long resume of success in boxing, but he has accrued a unique record of personal experiences that have imbued him with a sense of confidence and maturity that has allowed him to thrive and emerge as one of the more intriguing prospects in the division. 

Before turning pro, Coffie spent eight years in the U.S. Marine Corps, including a stint in war-torn Afghanistan where he saw combat. As Coffie likes to say, what he lacks for in boxing experience he more than makes up for in life adventures. But as he establishes himself as a force in the division, that calculus may soon be changing. 

If Coffie prevails against the veteran Gerald Washington this Saturday in a FOX PBC Fight Night and FOX Deportes main event (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, it will be another sign that Coffie’s in-ring accomplishments are rapidly catching up with his colorful and gritty history outside the sport.

“If I can beat someone like Gerald Washington, who’s only lost at the highest level, it proves to myself and to the world that hey, I’m here,” Coffie said. ”I’m no longer Mike Coffie the prospect but I’m Mike Coffie the contender.”

Before stepping into the ring, he was known by another name: Mike Coffie the U.S. Marine. Though he declined to go into detail of the combat he saw in Afghanistan, he did say he was there for eight months between 2009-2010, which, according to news reports, was a time of especially great instability and bloodshed in the country.

“Just being in Afghanistan at a time of war, it doesn’t get any more high stakes than that,” said Coffie, who spent eight years in the Marines, enlisting when he was 20. 

His time in Afghanistan steeled him for the physical and psychological pressures he would face in boxing, allowing him to “compartmentalize and not let outside things get in the way of what I’m trying to do and to not let the pressure that surrounds the fight get to me,” Coffie said.

While he was in the Marines, Coffie was encouraged to take up boxing by one of his corporals. After just two weeks of training, he entered the New York Golden Gloves in 2016, reaching the novice super heavyweight finals before winning the open category the next year.  

Everything is starting to come to fruition and it’s really exciting for me. Undefeated Heavyweight Contender - Michael Coffie

Despite his lack of experience, Coffie has long known he had the physical gifts to succeed through hustling sparring sessions and measuring himself against the likes of Deontay Wilder and other notable contenders like Adam Kownacki early in his career.  

Coffie says he approached Wilder confidante Jay Deas at a press conference and talked himself into joining Wilder’s camp for his second bout with Bermane Stiverne in 2017. In one memorable session, Wilder detonated a punch that landed cleanly, nearly short-circuiting Coffie’s inner wiring and blowing out his senses. 

“Straight to the melon,” Coffie said of the punch. “I heard that pop, that little firecracker.”

But he remained upright and fought back, proving to Wilder and to himself that he had a granite chin. “I was still going,” he said. “That let me know I could take a shot like that. I know I got the heart to be in there but to take a punch from Wilder — that gives you an extra level of insurance and confidence.”

Facing a punch-machine like Kownacki in sparring was “nerve-wracking,” he said, because of the unrelenting pressure and damage Kownacki was always trying to inflict. But Coffie got through those brutal sessions, giving him the confidence that if he got himself in better condition, he could hang with the stalwarts of the division.  

“I just wanted to see where I was against these guys at the highest level,” he said. “And I felt like I held my own.”

Coffie has certainly been able to keep his cool inside the ring and out. During fights, Coffie is composed and effective, as he showed in three rounds against Rock in the biggest win of his career. When it comes to creating a path to a world title, he and his promoter, King’s Promotions, have also been patient and shrewd about picking the right opponents. 

After wrecking the more experienced Rock in January on FOX, Coffie didn’t blurt out the usual blue-chippers of the division for his next challenge. Instead he cited the trial-horse Washington, who was stopped by the former titleholder Charles Martin in his last fight over a year ago, aware of the risks of moving too fast, even with his late start to the sport.  

“After I beat a guy, I want to get someone that is a level above that guy,” said Coffie, who trained with Josue Aguilar in Orlando, Florida for Saturday's bout. 

Following that logic, if he wins against Washington, Coffie referenced the likes of Martin as the level of opponent he would like to face next. “Those guys will prepare me for a title shot.”

Coffie recalls watching Wilder fight on television years ago in a main event and imagining what it would feel like to be in the same position. Though he exceeded his own timetable for how quickly he would fight in his first main event, which he will do on Saturday in his third fight of 2021, he’s not surprised to be here. Just like he predicted the punch that would end his bout with Rock in the third round, he anticipated being in his first main event soon enough. 

“When I started boxing, I used to talk about the possibility of this happening and I’d always used to say it would be cool to fight in a main event and to fight on a PBC card,” Coffie said. “Everything is starting to come to fruition and it’s really exciting for me.”

For a closer look at Coffie vs Washington, check out our fight night page. 

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