“The Dreams of Wonderful Years” – Duane Bobick!
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (July 6, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
Duane Bobick

By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing. - The 1972 Olympic heavyweight Duane Bobick got serious about boxing when he joined the Navy in 1968. He was under legendary Navy coach Dick Pettigrew (8x All-Navy) in VA for 2 ½ years and later met Murphy Griffin in San Diego who would train him from that base and into the professionals. He met the best boxers in the world like in 1969 when he defeated future world champion Mike “Hercules” Weaver whom he defeated in a Military tournament and defeat later as professionals.

In 1970 Bobick lost 3-2 to the 1960 Olympian Percy Price of the Marines whom beat then Cassius Clay in the Olympic trials forcing him to drop down to 178 in order to make the team. “He about took my ribs out. He gave me a good butt whipping. I couldn’t wait to come out of the ring,” said Bobick. This was at Ft. Dix, NJ. Next up in the AAU tournament he lost to Ron Lyle of Denver who stopped Bobick in the second round. The same Lyle would challenge Ali for the world title.

After the Lyle fight Bobick would win 60 straight including AAU title in 1971. He stopped Fred Houpe whom he would meet as a pro then named Young Sanford. He was managed by Red Foxx (Sanford & Son). In June of that year he defeated tough southpaw Nick Wells (Air Force) who had defeated future champion Larry Holmes twice. “I kicked his butt twice. He had talent he did not use. He stood right in front of me,” said Bobick. This qualified Bobick for the Pan Am Games.

In the 1971 Pan American Games in Cali, COL, Bobick knocked out the COL boxer Wesley Zulueta in the first round. He would then defeat the Cuban Teofilo Stevenson 5-0. In the finals he stopped the Mexican Joaquin Rocha in the second round to win the Gold Medal. “I would be the last non-Cuban to win the Pan Am Games in the heavyweight division,” said Bobick.

In February of 1972 Bobick went to the Soviet Union with the USA team and defeated 3 straight Soviet’s stopping 2 of them. He came back in the Nationals in Minneapolis and defeated Bob Culbertson, stopped Wells in 3, and Steve Williams in the first.

Murphy Griffith & Bobick
In the Olympic trials at Fort Worth, TX, Bobick stopped Clifford Stephens and Leroy Jones both in just over a minute each. He would meet Wells again and stop him in the second round. “Wells had power but no footwork,” said Bobick. Several weeks later in the box-offs he was giving Larry Holmes a good beating to the body dropping him in the second round. The holding by Holmes got so bad by the third round the referee waved Holmes off by disqualification.

This writer was told by Cus D’Amato that Holmes was so discouraged he was going to quit boxing. D’Amato encouraged him to keep on boxing. “I boxed him and maybe he realized after this fight the importance of a jab because he sure developed one,” said Bobick.

(Photo: Murphy Griffith & Bobick).

The Olympics were held in Munich, GER, in 1972 where the Palestine’s attacked the Israeli athletes. In Bobick’s first fight he was put against the Olympic favorite Yuri Nesterov (URS) and it was a war. Bobick would defeat him to go onto the next round.

What this writer doesn’t understand is why did Bobick, who won the Pan Am Games have to meet the Russian and Stevenson whom he defeated got a pass? The Soviets and Cubans of course were very friendly.

Bobick wouldn’t admit to it but it was well known he was really worn out after this fight while Stevenson was fresh. In losing to Stevenson this fight established Stevenson as the world’s best heavyweight winning the Gold and he would go onto win the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. Bobick ended up 93-10 (60), in the amateurs.

“I signed with Bill Daniels of Denver (Ron Lyle and Larry Bond’s manager),” said Bobick. Bobick would make his debut in Minneapolis, MN, stopping “Irish” Tommy Burns, 9-8, of CAN, in the first round. In his next fight 11 days later he stopped Willie Anderson, of KY, who was making his debut in 3 rounds of a scheduled 6.

In May of 1973 Daniels would have his 3 boxers on the same card at the Coliseum, Denver, CO. Lyle who was 20-1 defeated Gregoria Peralta, Bobick stopped debuting Jim Williams in 5 of an 8 rounder and Bonds won his debut by decision. He would go 28-3 and meet “Sugar” Ray Leonard for the WBC welterweight title some 8 years later. In Bobick’s tenth fight he stopped Mexican Manuel Ramos, 25-23-3, in 7 rounds. Ramos had fought “Smokin” Joe Frazier for the vacant NYSAC title in 1968 and went the distance with Lyle in 1971.

Bobick won his first 19 fights by knockout. He was by now being managed by Joe Frazier. “I felt Daniels was a good business man but didn’t know enough about boxing,” said Bobick. “Duane Bobick was a good guy. Anybody that makes the Olympics is a great fighter. He and I sparred quite a bit,” said Marvis Frazier. His streak was stopped when he defeated Billy Daniels, 23-19-3 over 10 rounds.

In Bobick’s twenty-fourth fight he met Mike Weaver the future WBA champion and stopped him in 7 rounds. In his thirtieth fight he stopped Pat Duncan, 34-8-2.

Next Bobick would headline in Philadelphia stopping Rochelle Norris, 11-3, in the second round. “Duane Bobick boxed Rochelle Norris for me in 1975. Nice guy who later was the PRISM boxing analyst with Jim Barniak,” said J Russell Peltz. Peltz is the Hall of Famer promoter from Philadelphia.

After Bobick stopped George “Scrap Iron” Johnson, 21-27-5, who was one of Frazier’s chief sparring partners, he was matched with Randy Neumann, 31-5, in Madison Square Garden. Neumann had won 7 of his previous 8 fights. “I bounced off the ropes and got hit with an uppercut and was down 3 times. Today, Duane and I are very friendly,” said Neumann. Now a NJ referee who works bouts around the world.

Murphy Griffith & Bobick
In April of 1976 Bobick would meet Scott LeDoux, 18-1-1, also of MN. LeDoux was 6-0-1 in his previous 7 fights including a win over Bobick’s brother Rodney. They set a record 13, 789 for attendance. Bobick would win by scores of 100-92 twice and 99-91. A month later he was on the under card of Ali-Richard Dunn in Munich, Germany, where he fought 4 years previously at the Olympics. He would stop Bunny Johnson, the former British and Empire champion.

(Photo: Ken Norton and Bobick - 2010 Birthday Bash)

In October of 1976 Bobick would meet Chuck Wepner, 33-10-2, who had won 3 straight by knockout since losing to Ali in a championship bout. The bout was stopped in 6 due to Wepner’s cuts. “He was a powerful puncher,” said Wepner. Just 4 weeks later Bobick defeated Fred “Young Sanford” Houpe, managed by Red Foxx.

Bobick was 38-0 (32), ranked No. 5 and would have his biggest challenge in May of 1977 in facing Ken Norton, 37-4 (30). Norton had his 7 knockout streak broken in challenging Ali in a title fight and the third time they met. “Joe (Frazier) did not want me to fight Norton. My head trainer Eddie Futch (former Norton trainer) was confident I could defeat Norton. A win over Norton and Bobick was guaranteed a match with Ali and a payday over a million dollars.

This writer was contacted by Jim Carlin who works with Bobick said he took Duane to Ken Norton’s “Birthday Bash” as a surprise guest. Ken was sitting there with his sister and daughter as we walked in. He stared at us for a couple of seconds before yelling “Duane Bobick”! Both fighters moved toward each other and embraced. They hadn’t seen each other since the night they fought. “Why didn’t you treat me this nice when we fought,” said Bobick. They both laughed. Carlin is a good friend of the Bobick’s, formerly of MN, now living in Prescott, AZ, and a very knowledgeable man of the sport.

“I was all alone in the dressing room. Futch and Griffin, my trainers, were working one of the preliminary fights,” said Bobick. The previous fight ended early and his trainers came in and told Bobick it was time to fight. “I hadn’t warmed-up not knowing when I was fighting. When the fight started I got in close figuring I could work inside and work up a sweat. I got hit with an uppercut to the throat,” said Bobick. He was stopped at 0:58 by technical stoppage in the first round. Even worse than the defeat was Bobick’s brother Rodney was killed in an auto accident less than a month later.

It was only 2½ months later when Bobick was back giving LeDoux a rematch. LeDoux had won 3 of his last 4 fights and the loss caused a grand jury investigation losing to Johnny Boudreaux, 19-1-1, because the scoring was so controversial. Bobick would win in the eighth round after scoring 2 knockdowns forcing the stoppage before 9,122 fans.

After Bobick stopped Pedro Agosto, 27-10-1 in 3 rounds the end of 1977 he went to Johannesburg, South Africa to fight Kallie Knoetze, 13-2, winner of his previous 7 fights. Bobick was shockingly stopped in 3 rounds. Futch would return to the US to train Frazier for a comeback.

Bobick stayed behind with his publicist Dave Wolf who felt the good publicity he had gotten prior to the fight could benefit him even now. It was also felt if he could get a win before coming back it would help his career. Just 6 weeks later he fought Mike Schutte, 36-8-1, and stopped him in the eighth round. Thing was Schutte was probably better than Knoetze at the time. Bobick asked Wolf if he would consider managing him and he would. Wolf later managed Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini.

While in South Africa Wolf got Bobick a screen test in a movie being made called “Billy Boy”. Duane ended up with the lead role. This writer asked Bobick about the movie and he laughed saying he had a copy and did the best he could. I told him he may have missed out on a movie career which brought laughter from both of us.

Bobick got his release from Frazier and in August of 1978 to December scored 7 straight knockouts. Wolf tried to get a bout with Ali and the then champion Holmes. In November Holmes had defended his title against none other than Evangelista. After losing to Ali Evangelista won 9 straight in 18 months and won the European title. His last fight before Holmes he beat Joe Maye, 3-31. In June at Las Vegas he beat Holmes sparring partner Jody Ballard by split decision on the Holmes-Norton undercard. Just being from out of the US he got not 1 but 2 shots at the world title.

Bobick was matched with 1984 Olympic champ “Big” John Tate, 17-0 (14), including a knockout over Colombian Bernardo Mercado, 20-0 (17), with all his fights in the states. This was almost a no win fight. Bobick was stopped in the first round by Tate. Wolf felt Bobick should retire after this loss.

Tate would go to South Africa 4 months later entering a tournament of 4 and stop Knoetze. Just 4 months later he met Gerrie Coetzee, 22-0 (12), who had stopped former champ Leon Spinks. Tate would defeat Coetzee for the vacant WBA title before 86,000 people.

Bobick decided to have one more fight 5 months later. He took on George Chaplin, 12-1-1, in Atlantic City. The fight was stopped after round 6 due to 2 deep cuts over Bobick’s right eye. This would be his last fight in July of 1979.

Bobick’s final record was 48-4 with 42 knockouts (81%). It seems 2 fights defined his career more than the 93 wins in the amateurs and 48 as a professional.

If the scheduling hadn’t been stacked in the Olympics with Stevenson fighting Nesterov first and in the professionals with Frazier as his manager had said no to Futch, the trainer.

As the No. 5 contender Bobick may have gotten a title shot with Ali who 5 days later was defending against Alfredo Evangelista, 14-1-1, of Spain. In Spain Lorenzo Zanon, 17-2-1, former Italian champ defeated Evangelista 3 months before this by an 8 round decision. The following February Ali lost his title to Olympian Leon Spinks, 6-0-1, whose big fight was a draw with LeDoux.

The week I attempted to get in touch with Bobick his wife Debi said he was at the Golden Glove Nationals in Indianapolis. During my interview he told me he made contact with one of his 1972 teammates “Sugar” Ray Seales who lives there. Duane and Debi have 2 daughters, Sarah who is 24 and Anna who is 22. Sarah recently graduated from Bethel University with a degree in nursing and Anna is finishing her undergraduate degree in English Communications from St. Cloud State University.

Bobick gave me the title “The Dreams of Wonderful Years” for this story. I remember seeing him when he trained at Frazier’s and now talking with him over the phone he’s the same likeable person. Who knows, if someone takes another look at “Billy Boy” he may be off to Hollywood! .

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