Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and local officials gathered at the intersection of Lakeside Street and Magnolia Avenue on Tuesday near the Ace Miller Golden Gloves boxing gym to dedicate an honorary street sign. Exactly 44 years to the day, then-Mayor Randy Tyree designated June 6, 1979, as ‘Big John Tate Day’ in Knoxville.
The Knoxville resident and boxing phenomenon earned a bronze medal at the 1976 Summer Olympics before capturing the heavyweight title three years later, succeeding Muhammad Ali following his first retirement.
His title fight against South African fighter Gerrie Coetzee was considered a watershed moment for South African race relations in the apartheid era. It took place in the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria in front of more than 80,000 spectators, marking the first time Black South Africans were permitted in the national venue.
Tate compiled a professional record of 34-3 with 23 knockouts. He battled drug addiction late in his life before his tragic death in 1998 at the age of 43.
The Knoxville City Council last month approved recommendations by the city’s Public Property Naming Committee to create honorary street signs for Tate and Tennessee football legend Johnny Majors.
The honorary designations do not replace the official street name and are displayed on a different color sign directly below the official sign.