The measure of a man is what happens when nothing works and you got the guts to go on - Randall “Tex” Cobb.
If boxer, kick boxer, and actor Randall “Tex” Cobb was as allusive in the ring as he is outside the ring to get a story out of he may have been heavyweight champion! For a boxer who only had two fights in the city of “Brotherly Love” the fans there loved him even though he was from Texas! Now if he was from Dallas instead of Bridge City it might have been different!
It was in “Smokin” Joe Frazier’s Gym on North Broad Street in Philadelphia that I first saw Tex Cobb. Instead of punching the heavy bag he kicked it. Watching him trying to skip ropes was another thing. I remember telling him “did you ever think about taking up ballet? He said “there ain’t too many *#@! ballet schools in Texas.” What trainer George Benton did to make a boxer out of a kick boxer was nothing short of a miracle. “You run for forty-five minutes, train for an hour and a half and the rest of the time you just hang out and talk tough,” said Cobb.
Cobb was a bouncer after his career ended at a club in Kennett Square. One night a guy was flirting with the girlfriend of one of the performers on stage. He ran off after the guy and before Tex caught up to him the “flirter” headed outside. Seems he was waiting for the performer to come out not wanting to have Cobb intervene. Cobb was back on the door when the performer came out and told both men “I can only get involved if you are in the club so do whatever you have to do.”
I haven’t seen Cobb since a boxing event at the Valley Forge Casino in King of Prussia probably in 2013. He was getting more attention in the crowd than the fighters were in the ring. I understand he and his wife moved to the state of Washington to help her ailing sister.
At Temple University in Philadelphia one night he kept a group of us laughing while he was putting on a fund raiser for the class he was in. One of the person’s there was the owner of the legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia. She helped Cobb get a degree along with thousands of others. He attended Abilene Christian College where he played football with Philadelphia Eagle great Wilbert Montgomery. I asked that night “were you a blocking back for Montgomery?” He replied “hell no. He didn’t need any blockers. I played the line both ways.” He later graduated magna cum laude from Temple University in Philadelphia earning a bachelor’s degree in sport and recreation management in 2008.
They showed some of his movies and one was with Chevy Chase together in a prison cell. When the quote “drop your drawers” came up Cobb jumped up off the sofa and said “that’s what you call acting!” He wanted to make it clear he was all man!
Cobb was asked about his fight in Pittsburgh, PA, in November of 1981 against Colombian Bernardo Mercado, 27-3, on the undercard of Larry Holmes defending his title against Renaldo Snipes. When he walked into the room for a press conference there were seven heavyweights on the card sitting at a table on the stage including Holmes, Snipes, Jimmy Young, Michael Dokes, Mercado, George Chaplain and Tommy Franco Thomas.
Cobb looks at the seven sitting there and says “look at this seven of the baddest n…ers in the world at one table!” And then goes into that famous laugh of his. Six of them laughed while Snipes got up and said “when I’m done with Holmes you’re next!” Cobb responded “if I have to wait until you’re done with Holmes we’ll never fight because you ain’t beating Holmes but we can get it on right now.” Snipes wisely sat down. I’m sure he figured Cobb was more dangerous outside the ring since he could use his feet! Cobb won his fight and Snipes lost his.
Almost a year to the day Cobb would get his chance at the WBC champion Holmes. A reporter asked him if he considered himself a “white hope.” Cobb replied “Well I’m white, and I’m hoping.” Cobb lost a decision over fifteen rounds to Holmes at the Houston Astrodome. The action was stopped while the ref could check on Cobb. He asked him “do you see me?” To that Cobb answered “Yeah, you’re white. It’s the black guy I’m worried about.” Commentator Howard Cosell was so upset about the one sided fight he never covered another fight again. “I’d go another 15 rounds with Holmes if Howard quit announcing football,” said Cobb. Cobb considers that one of the highlights of his career!
Cobb was even part of a roast for Holmes and had Holmes and the audience in stiches! “Larry Holmes didn’t beat me, he only won the first 15 rounds,” said Cobb. Pertaining to a re-match he said “I don’t think his hands could take the abuse.”
Cobb and his wife (who was very nice) were regulars in the front row at the shows at the “Blue” (Horizon)! This was a place he never had a chance to box at but you would never know it the way the fans have taken to him. He would be introduced and the fans went wild! Owner Vernoca Michael always had Cobb and his wife as guests sitting at ringside.
Cobb was 9-2 as a kick boxer including losing a decision in a PKA championship fight in 1984 in a return to the sport. Cobb won his first sixteen fights before fighting Earnie Shavers, 60-9-1 in August of 1980 in Detroit. Cobb was 16-0 (15) with only veteran Roy “Cookie” Wallace, 23-30-2 going the distance with him. One of Wallace’s previous victims was Rahman Ali who was born Rudy Clay and the brother of Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali. “Earnie Shavers could punch you in the neck and break your ankle,” said Cobb.
While the referee was giving instructions in the middle of the ring prior to the fight he asked “any questions?” To that Cobb said “can I bite him?” Cobb would stop Shavers in the eighth round with former WBC champion Ken Norton at ringside bad mouthing Cobb and saying Shavers was not the fighter who stopped him in one round. “If anyone hit harder than Shavers I would shoot him,” said Cobb.
In Cobb’s next fight he almost pulled off the win against the much more experienced Norton, 41-6-1, losing a split decision over ten rounds for his first loss in eighteen fights. In his next fight he came close to defeating former WBA champion Michael Dokes. “This fight will be the nastiest thing you will ever see, I’ve been sober for six weeks and that makes me vicious,” said Cobb. He went onto losing a majority decision. How many boxers would fight Shavers, Norton and Dokes one after another?
Two years after losing to Dokes, Cobb lost to future world champion and first conqueror of Mike Tyson, James “Buster” Douglas by majority decision. Then in a rematch with Dokes the fight was stopped in the fourth on a technical split decision. Two more losses followed. One to Eddie Gregg, 21-1-1 and the only time he was stopped by inexperienced Dee Collier, 7-4 in October of 1985.
Cobb would take 17 months off and come back with six straight knockouts before running into another technical fight ending in the first round to a draw with Bill Duncan. He then scored a pair of knockouts before meeting then former world champion Leon Spinks winning a majority decision. Finally one close fight went his way.
After being off again this time for 4 ½ years came the Sonny Barch, 19-3, fight ending in the first round but his win was reversed to a No Contest with both fighters testing positive for drugs. Despite this Cobb came back a month later and started a six fight knockout streak. He then won a decision over Butch Wilkinson, 5-1, and ended his career with six wins in six months with a pair of knockouts.
In his last twenty fights he was 18-0 with one No Contest and one Technical Draw. His final record was a respectable 42-7-1 with 35 knockouts. He was 39 years old in June of 1993 and retired. Can you imagine Cobb performing in a “one man show” like Mike Tyson? He’d be great!
Some of the Philly people who knew Tex were asked to comment on him like a long time boxing writer JEFF JOWETT who said: He was always cordial to me. He was at one of John Karoly’s shows that ran for years in Allentown. I asked him if he was still fighting Willie Nelson in a charity show coming up. Cobb answered “Let’s see, he’s 72 years old, weighs 130 pounds, and never had a fight. I think I got a chance!”
One of the not so nice stories about Cobb came from Philly cut man and now promoter JOEY EYE who was inducted into the PA HOF who figured Cobb would just mess with him. He said: I once had to box Tex in a charity event back in 2004 for Frank Cappuccino’s son. I had to give up about 80 pounds and a foot in height. But Tex didn’t discriminate, he beat me like a lil’ dog. He took a kick at my head broke my cheek and nose and at the end of the bout he proceeded to pick me up and try to hurl me out of the ring! And Tex is a friend of mine. I’m glad I wasn’t one of his foe’s he faced in his heyday! Afterwards I said to him “charity really hurts!” Then he let out one of his signature laughs! To me his one tough S.O.B. and a very approachable, nice guy and an underrated heavyweight for his era.
The man who knew Cobb well and ran Madison Square Garden and promoted some of his fights is BOBBY GOODMAN: Randy was a friend. I did a number of his fights. He’s probably the funniest guy I ever met. We did spend time together both while doing his fights and in between fights. He is a very intelligent guy and a natural wit. I like Randy a great deal and haven’t seen him in 25 years. I never got tired of being around him.
Top referee STEVE “DOUBLE SS” SMOGER who will be inducted into the IBHOF in June remembers being with Tex when he was a referee at the legendary Blue Horizon: I spent some quality time with Tex while officiating at the Legendary Blue Horizon. Tex is well spoken and a knowledgeable gentleman and always interesting to talk with. He would generally punctuate our conversation with his trade mark laugh!
Light middleweight title challenger EARL “THE PEARL” HARGROVE out of Philly was being trained by HOF trainer George Benton when he arrived at “Smokin” Joe Frazier’s Gym and was put in with heavyweights Jimmy Young and Tex Cobb before he sparred with middleweight “Bad” Bennie Briscoe. “Tex said he got more soul than me. I admired him. If I got a good shot in he acknowledged it and if he got one in he asked if I was okay. He is a good friend,” said Hargove.
Legendary matchmaker DON ELBAUM had this to say about Cobb: He used to come to the fights (Blue Horizon where Elbaum did the matchmaking) and we would sit down along with his wife and talk. People would come up to him at the fights and he would explode with that laughter of his. He was one of the greatest tough guys of all time. If there were a category for tough heavyweights in the history of boxing two come to mind. Tex and his carbon copy George Chuvalo.
On whom Cobb would have wanted to fight “I’d love to fight Gerry Cooney. But I have my price: 25 cent and a loose woman”.
GERRY COONEY: “Tex was a big tough, tough guy. He had no trouble being in with anybody. I watched him take all Earnie Shavers had for seven rounds and when Earnie got tired Tex took over and beat him. I heard in Australia his jeep flipped over and his scalp was torn off and a veterinarian sewed it back on. I have nothing negative to say about Tex. He was a really fun guy,” said Cooney.
On being floored for the first time Cobb said: “Nah, it didn’t affect me. I just got up and carried on with my game plan; stumbling forward and getting hit in the face”. Pertaining to promoter Don King Cobb had this to say: “Don King is one of the great humanitarians of our time. He has risen above that great term prejudice. He has screwed everybody he has been around. Hog, dog or frog, it don’t matter to Don. If you got a quarter, he wants the first 26 cents.” Some of these antics are during a fight like when he fought Jeff Shelburg, 22-4, between fighting Mercado and Holmes in Atlantic City. You could hear Cobb saying “after this fight let’s get a couple of beers.”
ROY FOREMAN manager of his brother George, Radio show host and promoter said “I spent more than a couple of days with him (Tex). One of the most colorful people and in serious you will ever meet. Rock and Roll is what he would say”.
MARVIN STINSON was a former 1976 AAU heavyweight champion and Olympic alternate. At the World games in Havana, Cuba, he lost to Olympian Cuban Teofilo Stevenson in the championship match by decision. Professional record for Stinson was 12-3-3 (6), losing his last 3 fights. He was chief sparring partner for world champion Larry “Easton Assassin” Holmes. “He sparred many rounds with Tex Cobb and had this to say: Tex was a tough fighter. His trainer George Benton tried to keep him from being hit especially by the jab which I had,” said Stinson.
Former Philadelphia Daily News and current Ring Magazine and www.thesweetscience.com writer BERNARD FERNANDEZ had this to say about Tex Cobb: Tex Cobb is widely given the credit, or blame, for permanently driving Howard Cosell away from ringside, so disgusted was Cosell by Tex’s no-chance challenge of heavyweight champion Larry Holmes. But let’s give credit where credit is due. Cobb hung in there against one of the better heavyweight titlists of the last 40 years, and so what if he mostly was on the receiving end?
Cobb showed heart and a refusal to give in much like Chuck Wepner did in taking Muhammad Ali into the 15th and final round of their heavyweight championship bout. And Tex was (and probably still is) a character, an original, which helped advance his popularity, as did his occasional movie appearances. Who can forget his scene-stealing turn as the “Warthog from hell” in the Coen Brothers’ “Raising Arizona”? No, he is not ever going to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, or receive an Irving Thalberg honorary Academy Award for his film work.
Cobb came to fight, he did his best, and when he was obviously outclassed he still found a way to go the distance or damn near close to it. There should be some degree of credit afforded such fighters like Tex, Wepner and maybe even George Chuvalo, who also didn’t make it all the way up to the elite level but always could be counted on to give the fans their money’s worth. As boxing legacies go, Tex Cobb’s isn’t all that shabby.
RON WEATHERS known as a trainer, manager and promoter. He could do it all. I was given Weathers number from Roy Foreman who was Big George’s brother. Weathers worked with George. He was introduced to Cobb through sportscaster Bob Mittberg out of El Paso, TX. Cobb was doing kick boxing at the time. Weathers promoted the Ken Norton and Tex Cobb fight and thought Cobb should have gotten the split decision instead of Norton. He tried telling Cobb to always stay in shape but Cobb said he liked to fight and wasn’t so interested in training. Even when Cobb sued Sports Illustrated for the story about the “fixed fight” he advised Cobb to take a couple of millions and not fight a big Time Warner company getting a bigger pay day. As it turned out Cobb didn’t agree and ended up with nothing from the lawsuit.
EARNIE SHAVERS one of the hardest hitting heavyweights in the history of boxing who lost to Tex Cobb had this to say: I love Tex and think he is a really funny and tough guy who is great company to be around. Like Chuvalo, if every fight was 50 rounds or more he would never lose a fight!
“THE ICE MAN” JOHN SCULLY a former top amateur boxer and title challenger now a trainer and a top writer and ringside commentator: I think Tex is one of the most clever boxers with words next to Muhammad Ali. His quick wit is unbelievable. I think he is underrated as a fighter due to the fight with Larry Holmes. I think he had better skills than he showed against an all-time great. But he did solidify his place in my mind is one of the top ten toughest fighters ever. The shots he took from Larry Holmes without blinking is almost too hard to imagine.
JAMES S. GIBBS, Jr. President of Big Cat’s Last Round Foundation Inc.: “Walking in the Rain with Tex Cobb: “Tex” always a good guy and I feel blessed to know him. A few years ago I run into Tex at a fight in Pennsylvania after not seeing him in years. It was just like old times back in Philly. Tex and I travel in similar circles and would often see one another down town.
I remember on one occasion I ran into Tex on Market Street by the Gallery and as I was walking and side tracked I heard this voice say…walk pass me and I will kick your ass. Needless to say that got my attention, as I turned it was Tex, it was a very nice day but time was of essence as I had to do a lot of shopping. If you know Tex 5 minutes can turn into 30 quickly. As we walked and talked boxing it started to rain. We walked and talked ducking in and out of storefronts but as wet as we both were it was time well spent.”
MARVIS FRAZIER was a former amateur champion that George Benton and Val Colbert trained. When he turned pro his dad “Smokin” Joe Frazier took over. “Tex and I sparred many times. He always had a joke before we got into the ring. He was a great fighter and I made sure he couldn’t catch me. He’s a good brother and a very smart person. He was always good to me.”
BOBBY “BOOGALOO” WATTS is a former middleweight contender of the 70’s and one of Philadelphia’s top trainers today. He is also one of the few to get a win over “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. “I saw my cousin Jimmy Young and Tex spar quite a bit. He is one funny guy. We used to take the train together when we both worked in the city (Philadelphia).
Randall “Tex” Cobb could fight in any era from Jack Johnson to Wladimir Klitschko. He came to fight and fight he did. He went from a college football player earning a 3rd degree black belt to a kick boxer where he was 9-2 (9) losing a 12 round decision to John Jackson for the PKA championship. He left his home state of Texas and came to the gym of “Smokin” Joe Frazier where George Benton became his trainer, Joe Gramby his manager and Eddie Aliano his cut man.
Cobb fought four current, former or future world champions such as Larry Holmes for his title, Buster Douglas, Michael Dokes (lost twice by majority and TD) and defeated Leon Spinks. In 50 fights he scored 42 wins, 35 by knockout, lost 7 being stopped 1 time. From 1977 to 1993 the 6:03 Cobb took on all comers ducking no one! He had wins over Earnie Shavers and Bernardo Mercado winning his first 17 fights. His first loss was to Ken Norton by split decision. In what was Norton’s next to last fight and he also ended up with a 42-7-1 record. Cobb has a personality second to none among boxers and appeared in many movies. If he were to do a “one man show” he would be an instant hit! In his last 20 fights he was 18-0-1 with 1 no contest.
Randall “Tex” Cobb was one Texan the Philadelphia fan’s loved!
Please send all questions and comments to Ken Hissner at: Kenhissner@gmail.com