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To that end, Cobb is working to perfect a boxing style that justifies the 18th-century English term for the sport, "milling."
"Most heavyweights throw a maximum of 60 punches per round," Cobb says. "Ali was one of the few who could go 100. In my last fight [a seventh-round TKO of Jeff Shelburg in Atlantic City in April] I threw 130 a round, and my ultimate goal is 150."
Cobb's rapid-fire approach was triggered when he read a TIME magazine story on the wall of Joe Frazier's gym in North Philadelphia. The story discussed Frazier's defeat of Ali in their first fight in 1971. TIME described Frazier thusly: "A kind of motorized Marciano, he works his short arms like pistons, pumping away with such mechanical precision that he consistently throws between 54 and 58 punches each round."
"I figure if I can throw twice as many," Cobb says, "they'll never take a decision away from me. Haw, haw. Wrong again, Buffalo Breath!"
Obviously such a rapid rate of fire demands enormous endurance from a fighter of Cobb's size, which is 6'3", 235 pounds. To keep up a pace of 150 punches a round over 15 rounds, he would have to sling 2,250 punches—about 30 rounds' worth for a less furious puncher. "A guy could punch himself out in no time if he doesn't train right," Cobb says.
Although Cobb may seem to disdain defense, this isn't the case. "Cobb's defense is his chin," Sharnik says. "It's the best in the world." And he uses it to his offense's advantage. It lets him wade in and throw ponderous left jabs and straight rights. "He doesn't really have a knockout punch," says J. Russell Peltz, who promoted the Cobb-Shelburg fight. "He's a football player who can punch."
Five nights a week Cobb hies himself to a gym in Cherry Hill, N.J. to work on his cardiovascular endurance. He puts in 10 minutes each on a bicycle, a rowing machine and an arm cycle known as an armagon. On alternate days he works on a Universal gym, building up his arms, back and legs. He completes the gym circuit in 45 minutes.
Boxing traditionalists argue that weight work produces muscle-bound fighters who can't punch quickly enough to get out of their own way. Benton was at first skeptical of the regimen, but Cobb explained that it was necessary for him to "teach my heart how to put out a total effort for a full 15 rounds."
Boxing purists also aren't accustomed to a heavyweight contender whose tongue has as much sting as his punches. Cobb isn't wild about Philadelphia (or any other big city), but he does recognize its merits. "It's the only place where you see two winos fight on the street and both are jabbing," he told the Philadelphia Daily News's Mark Whicker.
On his pigmentation: "I'm in a money-making position relative to this sport," says Cobb, who has earned the respect of the predominantly black clientele at Frazier's gym. In fact, Cobb's other co-manager, Joe Gramby, is black, as is Benton.