On the sport of
tennis: "If you screw up, it's 15-love. If you screw up in boxing, it's
your ass, Darlin'."
Cobb was born in Bridge City, Texas, a town of some 5,300 in the Beaumont-Port
Arthur area northeast of Galveston. His father, Willard, an architect, died of
cancer when Randall was six, and his mother, Norma, moved the family west to
Abilene and often held down two or three jobs at the same time to support
herself and her four sons. Always a big, strong kid, Cobb took up full-contact
karate after the usual boyhood education in baseball, basketball and football.
"I like to hit," he says simply.
He was a tackle
at Abilene Christian College before dropping out after his junior year. "I
blocked for Wilbert Montgomery," he says, "but that was pretty easy.
All you had to do was touch the cornerback and, zip, Wilbert was gone." He
majored in theology and psychology. "I read the Bible for its wisdom and
the insight it gives me into life," he says. "Hell, those are some
great stories, aren't they? But I worship in my own way, a kind of mixture of
Christianity, Zen and Taoism. I've got no use for the Christian church as a
His size and his
skill in the martial arts made Cobb a natural for work as a bouncer. "I
worked the door in many a bar, from West Texas on over into New Mexico," he
says. "Boxing is sissy stuff compared to some of the situations you face as
a bouncer, Darlin'. In those border-town bars, you had two, three fights a
night. If you didn't, you weren't paid. The toughest town to work the door in
is Albuquerque. There you got drunk cowboys, motorcycle gangs, pachucos and
Mexican farm workers, plus you got five, six karate studios in town, all of
them good. Every Saturday night's the gun-fight at the OK Corral."
competing in and winning full-contact karate matches, and pro boxing was the
last thing on his mind. Then he met Paul Clinite. "I'm sitting in my office
one night," says Clinite, an El Paso promoter, "when these four big
guys walk in. Usually I promote boxing, but I'd been talked into doing this
karate thing. Cobb says they want to appear on the card; they'll split up into
two pairs and fight each other. I say no, it would look like collusion. 'Don't
worry,' he says. 'It'll be all right.' Ten minutes later they're out there
fighting. Cobb's up against this big Mexican, who's kicking the tar out of him.
Cobb hits him with a right. KO's him. It took me three months to sign him to a
Cobb was indeed
reluctant. But in late 1975, Clinite sent him to Philadelphia for a rendezvous
with Benton and the veteran Gramby. Cobb had a 10-year contract with Clinite,
$22 in his kick and a case of the flu.
"I hated this
city when I got here," he says, "and I hate it worse today. How the
hell can people actually choose to live in these northern burgs?" Cobb
would work out at Frazier's gym during the day, getting his nose broken 10 to
15 times as he unlearned his karate lessons. Nights he worked the door at Doc
Watson's Pub. "You'd hardly call it bouncing," he says. "Doc
Watson's clientele is mostly doctors, lawyers and gold diggers. They got in a
lot of fights, but all they'd do is yell a lot and then sue each
One night at
Watson's in March of 1976 he met Priscilla Lowe, a four-year karateka who
managed a Philadelphia women's clothing store. The next night he quit his
bouncing job. About a year later, fed up with broken noses and no more than
$250 a fight, Cobb headed west with Priscilla. "I was working out in a gym
in Watts," he recalls, "when these guys walked in. They were scouting a
part for a movie. They wanted a boxer, but he had to be an Indian. I guess I
was the closest thing to an Indian in that gym, so they picked me." Cobb
played the bad-ass in The Champ, a remake of the old Wallace Beery-Jackie
Cooper film of the same name. As Roland Bowers, he gives Jon Voight a fatal
concussion to set up the tear-jerker ending.
"I got 10
grand for that piece of business," he says with a laugh. "About five or
10 fights' worth. It's a great vacation, working in the movies, lots of great
women, but you wouldn't want to do it if you needed a job. There's sycophants
on every level, all waiting for an opening to syc the next phant up the
Today Randy and
Prissy live together (with Prissy's mother, Jane) in a small clapboard house in
Runnemede, N.J., just south of Philadelphia. Prissy, 28, is a tall, rawboned
woman with a raucous laugh and features reminiscent of Gauguin's Polynesian
women. She calls Cobb Randall—"In Texas, nobody calls anyone 'Tex,' "
she says—and helps to keep him out of trouble. Last Dec. 10, however, he got
into it anyway.