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.
(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.
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.
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!"
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.'
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.
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."