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Duane naturally gravitated to gyms, and when he joined the Navy he was befriended by Murphy Griffith, uncle of the former boxing champ, Emile. Griffith had a look at Bobick and said, "I can't work miracles, but let's try." Words like "miracles" seem to keep cropping up in Bobick's career.
After some early head-inflating boxing success, Duane went to Munich, where he had his darkest day since the old gang fights back home in Bowlus. Bobick eventually signed with a Denver cable-television executive, Bill Daniels, for a bonus of $25,000 and 50% of the gross purses after expenses. However, in his 25th fight while in Daniels' employ, he earned only $445.80. Bobick bought out of this deal for between $107,500 and $150,000, the ultimate figure depending on how well Bobick does in the next 18 months. Daniels says, "I didn't want to lose him. But when athletes get unhappy, they don't perform. I thought he would be the heavyweight champ and I still think so. To have a champ, that would be life's thrill."
So Bobick signed on with Frazier, and currently receives 47% of the gross purses plus pension benefits, with all boxing-related expenses paid by Frazier. "I got in the ring with Bobick and he took some of my best shots. I decided he had potential," Frazier says. Ironically, Frazier didn't want Bobick to go against Norton, a longtime Frazier friend. "He's my very good partyin' buddy," says Frazier. "We have big fun together." But, says Joe, he was overruled by others. Just the other day, Norton saw Frazier and said, "What are you doin' puttin' that white boy on me?" These days Joe is wrapped up in his activities as a song-and-dance man, and he doesn't take credit for Bobick. This might be because he understands that blame often quickly follows credit. But why is it that people persist in saying Bobick can't fight? "I don't know—but they said the same thing about Joe Frazier," says Frazier.
Bobick likes to say he began boxing "when the doctor slapped me on my rear and I hit him with a left hook." Nice line, but impossible; everyone knows Bobick never had a left hook until he was taught one by Frazier. "Duane is pretty good at it," says that master of left hooks, "but even now it's no big snappy punch."
As recently as 1975, Bobick earned $15,000. In 1976, it was $61,000. This year? "A bunch." If he loses to Norton? "It won't be the end of the world," says Duane. "Life already has nailed me a lot of shots. I'll be O.K. And some day not too far away I can give up this manly art of getting belted around."
Bobick admits he once had a fear of dying "before I accomplished anything," but now feels he has met most of his goals. He wants to improve his brothers, which explains why at a banquet in Manila he hurled an olive pit across the table that hit LeRoy between the eyes, then instructed, "Don't blow on your soup. It's not polite." He says he wants to be "a good person because if you are, everything will happen for the best."
Thus does Duane Bobick approach the most important fight of his life. "If I win, I may move right into the middle of Beverly Hills and raise chickens," he says. "If I lose, I'll go lie up in the sun and figure what to do next. I'm flexible. I've got gypsy blood in me just like those old trappers did."