No boxer from Alaska did more than Anchorage’s Cody Koch, whose rapid and remarkable rise to prominence in the 1990s was unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the sport.
Koch broke into pro boxing in 1995 after winning a national Toughman Contest. He won his first 24 fights, with 20 of them coming by knockout.
In 1998, he twice fought for a heavyweight title, first against Ed Mahone for the vacant WBO belt and then against WBC champion Wladimir Klitschko.
The 6-foot-2 southpaw was a hard-hitting brawler who handed four pro fighters their first loss. His biggest win came in 1997 against 23-and-5 Booker T. Word.
Koch’s first title shot came on Feb. 23, 1998 against 15-0 Mahone in Inglewood, California. Koch was winning on the judges’ scorecards prior to the 10th round, when Mahone knocked him out. It was Koch’s first loss in 25 pro fights.
He came back a few weeks later to win a tune-up fight for his 25th career victory and set up the biggest break of his career, a chance to fight 19-0 WBC heavyweight champion Klitschko on May 23, 1998 in Germany.
The 6-foot-6 Klitschko won by fourth-round knockout against Koch, who fought bravely against an elite opponent widely considered one of greatest heavyweight boxers of all-time with 64 wins.
Koch never fought again. He died on July 26, 1998 under mysterious circumstances outside a bar in Michigan, less than a month before he was scheduled to return to the ring in Las Vegas.
Friday Flashback is an ongoing series created by Alaska Sports Hall of Fame blog editor Van Williams that looks back on great Alaska athletes from the past. To read about other Alaskans featured in this series, click here.