Right state, wrong site. If ever a fight belonged in the Alamo, it was last Friday night's battle between WBC heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and Randall (Tex) Cobb in Houston's Astrodome. Like the Alamo, this was a mismatch involving a great measure of courage—if it can be said that jumping in front of a locomotive is courageous.
At the end, Cobb indeed looked as if he'd been hit by a fast freight. But he was undaunted and grinning—and looking for an immediate rematch. "Like tomorrow night," he said. "And then the night after that, and then the night after that. The s.o.b. has to get tired sometime."
The only thing Holmes got tired of was hitting Cobb. Against the WBC's fifth-ranked contender, Holmes was at his best, which is close to perfection. That he was in with a fighter who often punches like a kick boxer (which Cobb was) should take nothing away from Holmes's 41st straight win and his 13th successful title defense. It's the curse of the 33-year-old, unbeaten Holmes that he reduces opponents to mediocrity, and then he's measured not by his own performance but by that of his opponent.
Cobb's record was fair enough: 20-2, with victories over Earnie Shavers and Bernardo Mercado and a very questionable loss to Kenny Norton. And while he dropped a 10-round decision to Michael Dokes, now the No. 1 contender, he had Dokes in big trouble.
Yet, Holmes deftly turned Cobb into a ponderous dart board who could win but one round on only one official's card. "And I only gave him that one, the seventh," Judge Larry Hassad said, "because Holmes took the round off."
Holmes found that amusing. "It had to be the seventh," he said. "I'm superstitious about that round. That's the round Shavers knocked me down. And when [Renaldo] Snipes knocked me down. I get a little cautious in the seventh now."
Cobb's plan was to jab powerfully to the body, over and under the heart, which is what fighters do when their jabs are too slow to go to the head. "But you know all that brilliant prefight strategy is only good until the first time you get hit in the mouth," Cobb said. "After that, all you are doing is trying to keep your butt off the floor."
Another concern in Cobb's camp was cuts. "If Larry doesn't bust him open in the first six rounds, we're in good shape," Trainer Georgie Benton said.
Cobb took his first cut the day before the fight, when, as he describes it, promoter Don King told him, "According to your contract you were supposed to be in here two weeks early to help promote the fight and you just got here. [In fact, he'd arrived four days before, on Nov. 21.] As a penalty I'm cutting your purse $200,000, to $500,000. And you can take it or leave it."
After injuries and red tape cost him a shot at WBA champ Mike Weaver, Cobb wasn't about to let $200,000 stand between him and Holmes. "I'll just have to leave the bar sooner," he said.