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I'll Sling Leather, Darlin'
Robert F. Jones
November 15, 1982
But will Randall Cobb be in there long enough against Larry Holmes to fire his 175 punches per round?
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November 15, 1982

I'll Sling Leather, Darlin'

But will Randall Cobb be in there long enough against Larry Holmes to fire his 175 punches per round?

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Remember those old gangster flicks in which the hero, Bogey or Cagney or Edward G. Robinson, takes his bimbo to the fights? A couple of ape-faced, ham-fisted heavyweights are whaling away at each other—whap! whap! whap!—relentlessly and accurately, yet neither pug so much as flinches. Even a kid could tell that no fighter in history could conceivably dish out or take such punishment.

Wrong again, Buffalo Breath!

Meet Randall (Tex) Cobb, 28, who's both of those fighters rolled into one.

In almost six years as a pro, Cobb has established a reputation as a perpetual-motion slugger who can take as good as he gives. He'll be doing both on Nov. 26 in Houston when he challenges Larry Holmes for the WBC heavyweight championship. Cobb was twice scheduled to fight Mike Weaver earlier this year for the WBA slice of the title, but the first date was scrubbed when Weaver pulled a shoulder muscle and the second when Cobb took a punch in sparring that split his upper lip and required 22 stitches.

"Holmes is the big one," says Cobb. "Win or lose, I'll be swinging plenty of leather, Darlin'." He winks playfully, or maybe painfully, because his face appears to have been the victim of just about every injury a punch can inflict: His pummeled brows bulge over hooded pale blue eyes; his scarred jaw juts like a hammered boulder; there's a black hole in the middle of his grin; his nose just hangs there like a butterflied squid. The bones in his schnozz were removed last year to stop needless nosebleeds. A new plastic infrastructure will be implanted when Cobb is through fighting. "He was a nice-looking guy," says his co-manager, Paul Clinite, a bit wistfully. "Had a real nice nose. We'll give him a new one when he needs it."

Cobb is a catcher—a fighter who takes a lot of punches to deliver his own—and he caught everything 35-year-old Earnie Shavers threw for eight slam-bang rounds on Aug. 2, 1980. Then he broke Shavers' jaw with a chopping right hand and won on a TKO. On his good days, Shavers was the hardest-hitting heavyweight since Sonny Liston, and that day against Cobb was a very good one.

"Shavers was hitting me with double left hooks," Cobb explained recently while watching a replay of the fight. "He'd never really hooked before and now he's doubling up." Angelo Dundee, doing the TV commentary, exults, "What an experience for Tex Cobb!"

"Yeah," the beneficiary said wryly, "I wished I had four Californians to share it with me. After the fight was stopped, I told Earnie, 'Let's get together and don't ever do this again. Go out and get drunk, but never this again.' "

Cobb's 10-round battle with Ken Norton—who was then at least 35—on Nov. 7, 1980 was another classic slugfest. "I'm no master of defense," Cobb admits, "but Norton's awkward jab that started high and came down gave everybody trouble. Like Shavers, he's all arms and shoulders." Norton was nearly out on his feet in the third, eighth and ninth rounds as Cobb slammed him Marciano-style with left and right uppercuts and then hooks.

"I should have kept him in the middle of the ring," Cobb laments, "made him use his legs. Instead I took him to the ropes and went headhunting. I knew the next right would take him out." He laughs bitterly. "Wrong again, Buffalo Breath! I fought a dumb fight. I averaged more than 100 punches a round—threw more than a thousand in the fight. You can beat just about anything but the human spirit—a guy who's willing to die, him you can't kill."

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