I recently saw Tex Cobb sitting ringside at the Blue Horizon and asked him for an interview. “I don’t do interviews,” he said. Then Tex laughed.
There was a time when Cobb was more talkative. He lived his life on the razor’s edge and left a trail of wisecracks in his wake. There’s a ton of evidence suggesting the former contender once had something to say.
“If you screw up in tennis, it’s 15-love. If you screw up in boxing,” Cobb said several years ago, “it’s your a**, darlin’.”
Although he fought for the WBC heavyweight title in the Houston Astrodome against Larry Holmes in 1982, Tex never wore the crown. No one questioned his heart or ability to take a punch – Cobb had one of the best chins in heavyweight history – but all agreed that Tex lacked something essential.
Randall “Tex” Cobb was born May 7, 1950 in Bridge City, Texas. He graduated from Abilene High School in 1968. He studied philosophy and played fullback at Abilene Christian College, where he was a backfield mate of Wilbert Montgomery, who went on to star for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Tex was good with his hands, but he was not a conventional Golden Glover. He dropped out of college at the age of 19 and commenced fighting in smoke-filled Texas saloons: “Beer mugs, knees, fists, elbows, and top of your head take the place of the Marquis of Queensberry Rules,” recalled Cobb.
Cobb made a name for himself as a kickboxer rated by the PKA (Pro Karate Association). He was tough, he was a draw, and he went to Joe Frazier’s gym on Broad Street in North Philly for some formal training. Tex picked up a few fundamentals and gave the amateurs his best shot, but his best shot was not good enough. “I only had two fights as an amateur and lost both of them. Heck, I figure I didn’t have much of a future there,” Cobb said, “so I turned pro.”
His professional debut was on January 21, 1977. Tex scored a first round knockout over Pedro Vega in El Paso.
By the end of 1979, he reeled off thirteen straight wins, all of them by kayo.
“All I want to do is hit somebody in the mouth,” Cobb confessed. “It’s a whole lot easier than working for a living.”
His next fight was against a Cleveland heavyweight named Terry Mims. In 1980 Tex went the distance with Cookie Wallace. Two fights later he punched his way into the heavyweight rankings with an eighth round TKO over Earnie Shavers at the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
“The toughest thing to do in the ring is restrain myself. I want to knock the other guy in the groin,” said Cobb, “but I know I can’t do that.”
Three months later Tex dropped a controversial split decision to ex-champion Ken Norton, but Cobb was in the mix: “If I were any more serious, they’d make me a national disease.”
In 1981 he gave a good account of himself in a losing effort against Michael Dokes at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Two fights later, Tex muscled rugged Bernardo Mercado over ten rounds. That victory set the stage for the big fight with the heavyweight champion of the world Larry Holmes.
When asked before the fight if he was afraid of Larry, Tex replied, “What the hell is this guy going to do to me? Hit me? You think I got all this scar tissue running into parked cars?”
The two men met on November 26, 1982 in Houston, Texas and Holmes beat Cobb to within an inch of his life. For fifteen lopsided rounds, the champ pounded the challenger. Larry didn’t drop his opponent – Tex was too damn stubborn for that – but at one point Cobb turned to the ref and said “You’re white. Help me.” The ref may have been white, but the ref didn't help, so Tex stood there and took shots.
Ringside announcer Howard Cosell was calling the fight. “I have been called obnoxious, bombastic, sarcastic, confrontational and a know-it-all,” Cosell said about himself. “Of course, I am all these things.” Cosell threw up his hands in disgust at Holmes vs. Cobb and quit boxing because of the fight. Cosell said during the bout: “This is brutalization.”
Tex explained away the loss (“When I got up I stuck to my plan – stumbling forward and getting hit in the face”) but took pride in the fact that he was the man who drove Howard Cosell from the fight game for good. Cobb said it was “My gift to boxing.”
Tex won his next four fights. James “Buster” Douglas, soon to become undisputed heavyweight champ, beat Tex on points. Cobb met Michael Dokes in a rematch and dropped a four-round technical decision. Tex lost his next two fights, a verdict to Eddie Gregg and a one round kayo to a club fighter named Dee Collier.
Randall “Tex” Cobb was on the slide and took 1986 off to regroup. It was about time: “I figure I’ve been hit in the head with everything ‘cept a ‘54 Pontiac.”
Tex made the inevitable comeback in 1987. He racked up nine wins in a row without a loss, setting up the March 1, 1988 bout in Memphis, Tennessee against ex-titleholder Leon Spinks. Although near exhaustion at the end, Tex hung on to squeak out a ten-round point decision over the aged former champion.
Even though Tex said “It never bothers me to hit people I like,” getting hit by people he liked was another story, so he took a second hiatus, this time for three years, after his fight with Neon Leon.
Cobb made another comeback in 1992, scoring a first round TKO against Paul Barch, in a bout that was shrouded in controversy. Barch sold his side of a sordid story to Sports Illustrated, claiming he went into the soup for Tex while both men were high on cocaine. Cobb denied everything and sued the magazine for libel. Tex won the lawsuit, which was overturned on appeal, but it was definitely case closed when he uttered these immortal words: “It’s one thing to call me white and slow. But to call me a fat, cowardly, cocaine-snorting, fight fixing cheat? Who are they calling fat?”
Tex continued to soldier on. He won his last eight fights, the final one on May 7, 1993. Cobb retired with a record of 43-7-1 (36 KOs).
“I’m not standing up for the great state of Texas or the state of the white race or any of that,” Cobb said. “I’m a guy making a living.”
Tex Cobb had a second career in Hollywood, part of which ran concurrently when he was fighting, but he and LA were like snake oil and water.
“I find it a drag being sensitive twelve hours a day,” said Tex. “I’ve got thirty minutes of sensitivity in me in the morning, thirty minutes in the evening and that’s it. I’m more at home kicking butt.”
Despite his attitude, perhaps because of it, Tex Cobb was a character actor in demand for several years. He has over two-dozen TV and film appearances to his credit, including appearances in The X Files, Miami Vice, In the Heat of the Night, Married…with Children, Uncommon Valor, Raising Arizona, The Champ, Golden Child, Police Academy 4, Diggstown, Naked Gun 33 1/3 and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
“People always ask if success is going to change me,” Cobb said, “and I tell them I sure hope so.”
Being on the west coast, instead of the east coast where he now lives, had some advantages.
“Hollywood’s a great place to vacation, but I wouldn’t want to live there. The people don’t have a concept of reality,” the former contender said. “Their reality is how good they pretend.”
But since Cobb was acting for a living, pretending in LA became a way of life.
“I love acting,” Cobb said. “It’s easy for me. All you do is look in the camera, smile, and lie with charm. I learned how to do that watching Don King promote fights.”
Many people have it out for Don King, and vice-versa, and it sounds like Cobb might be one of them: “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 ever been around. Hog, dog or frog, it don’t matter to Don. If you got a quarter, he wants the first twenty-six cents.”
Tex was never champion, but he got to deal with the top rank of the game.
“Don King is like everybody else in boxing. He’s a liar, a thief, a murderer and a racketeer. And a con man,” Cobb said. “But there ain’t anybody as bad as Bob Arum. That New York City Jew lawyer will make you hate city folks, Jews, and lawyers in the same day.”
Randall “Tex” Cobb is alive and well and exercising his right to remain silent in Philadelphia.