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Local History

Tex Cobb

 Noted boxer and actor Randall “Tex” Cobb competed in two boxing matches in Springfield.  His first appearance was against Frank “Gator” Williams at the Shrine Mosque on March 21, 1987.  Cobb won the fight by knocking Williams out in the second round.  He returned to Springfield barely a month later for a match against Bill Duncann of Fayetteville, Arkansas.  Cobb entertained the public in a training session at the Boys Club on Boonville on April 16.  The next day, he and Duncann squared off at the Shrine Mosque.  This fight was also brief, but more memorable.  Cobb connected with a right jab 18 seconds into the first round.  The punch knocked Duncann against the ropes, but the boxers accidentally bumped heads, causing a serious cut above Duncann’s eye which required 17 stitches.  Since the contact was accidental, the referee declared the fight a technical draw.  The abrupt end to the highly anticipated main event angered many of the 700 spectators.  The local newspaper described the scene as a “rowdy uproar” when several fights broke out in the stands.  The Springfield police department was called in to restore order. 

The rich history of boxing in Springfield was profiled in the April and July 2006 issues of the Missouri Historical Review with a two-part article, “Seeking ‘The Great White Hope’: Heavyweight Boxing in Springfield, 1910-1912,” by Arly Allen.

“He’s one colorful boxer,” Springfield (Mo.) Daily News, March 21, 1987, 1 C.

"Over the years, the world of sports has been slowly sapped of its colorful characters.  The devil may care attitudes of the Casey Stengels, Yogi Berras and Muhammad Alis have been pushed aside by money demanding agents, long-term contracts and free agency.  Characters who sold their sport to the public with sometimes entertaining, often outrageous quips, comments and stunts are a vanishing breed.  Enter Randall 'Tex' Cobb.

"While Cobb, the boxer turned actor, returned boxer, has a few plateaus to climb before reaching to heights of an Ali or a Stengel, he is heading in the right direction.  His opinion on his career choice:  'This is just a dodge to get out of having to work.  I just love to fight.  I’m happy when I’m fighting.' Cobb on his fighting tactics. 'My ring style has always been to keep kicking butt until there ain’t no more butt to kick.'  On his appearance.  'Let’s just say I wasn’t exactly blessed with the face of a matinee idol.  But I figure I can do more damage to the other fellow’s face than he can do to mine.'
The 33 year old Abilene, Texas, native will get a closeup look at the face of Frank “Gator” Williams when the two square off tonight in the feature bout of a program that starts at 7:30 p.m. at the Shrine Mosque.

"Cobb has been on an 18 month leave of absence from the ring to go to Hollywood and make movies.  On his list of movie making credits are parts in 'The Golden Child', 'Uncommon Valor', 'Police Academy 4', and 'Critical Condition'.  He also appeared in a television episode of 'Miami Vice'.

"Cobb has learned from his Hollywood apprenticeship.  He plays the part of the brash showman with or without a camera in front of him.  One does not attempt to talk with Cobb without learning quickly that he responds to most questions with a Johnny Carson like monologue, shot at you rapid fire, making it hard to determine if he is playing showman, or boxer, or both.

"His responses, spiced with a vocabulary only a sailor could love, come in long streams of words and phrases, with the only indication he’s finished talking being a bellowing, deep gut laugh.  He gives you that doll eye stare that only boxers can master, the kind of look that tells you nothing, but makes you think of everything.  He could be noticing how easy it would be to knock your jaw from here to Bolivar or he could just be giving you that ordinary psych out stare that’s a trademark in his sport.
But, ah, there’s a crack across his bearded face and the eyes squint as a toothy smiles hangs below his nose---a nose he calls 'customized' from countless punches and jabs until it now resembles a small church bell.

"The smile is disarming and keeps you off balance, not knowing if his answer is serious or part of the show that he has to sell.  'There are some good fighters out there.  There truly are,' Cobb admits, but Mike Tyson, 'Bonecrusher' Smith and Michael Spinks aren’t Cobb’s kind of fighter.  'There just aren’t any life-taking, world beating fighters.'  Like Randall 'Tex' Cobb.  And he does have a degree of expertise in assessing fighters.  A long shot several years ago against then heavyweight champion Larry Holmes, Cobb shocked the experts by going the distance with the champion.  Earlier in his career, Cobb took on Earnie Shavers, viewed by some in his prime as the hardest hitting heavyweight.  Cobb knocked him out.  The Texan’s record stands at 26-7 with 21 knockouts and he has his eye on returning to the top 10 rankings.

“'I can always go back to Hollywood, but it won’t be too many more years before I’d have to ask myself if I could have been champion.  That’s why I’m fixing to fight myself back into shape and kick some butt in the heavyweight division.'  Being pummeled by his opponent does not concern Cobb, who established a trademark by taking terrific beatings from Shavers and Holmes but never falling to the canvas.  A question about boxing being too violent brings a long, loud laugh, causing Cobb’s 6 foot 3, 240 pound frame to shake with delight.  'I appreciate the concern for me.  If you want to keep away from danger, stay out of the bathroom.  More people died in the bathroom than ever died in boxing.  Don’t drive.  More people died in car accidents in a month than ever died in boxing.'

"Cobb is confident his opponents know what’s going on and what the dangers are when the bell sounds.  'Nobody ever got into the ring with me who ever thought we were going to play chess.  It’s not like I sneak up on anybody.'

"Those opposed to boxing point to former champion Ali’s questionable medical condition as a reason to tame the sport.  Cobb meets that debate head on.  'Ali was a professional fighter so he wasn’t playing with a full deck right off.  He is not representative of a typical boxer.  He was in the ring 23 years.  That is not conducive to prolong good health.'

"Cobb’s disdain for those whose question the violence in boxing is exceeded only by his opinion of another sport that takes place in the squared circle---professional wrestling.  'I wish I could find a wrestler so I could talk to him about professional wrestling.  I could have gone into it and made a lot of easy money.  I’m not against them.  They are providing a service but it shouldn’t be construed as actual combat.  These boys are entertainment.  Some are actually good athletes, some of the best stuntmen in the business.  What I question is when a guy jumps 16 feet in the air and puts an elbow in somebody’s eye, that they can recover from that.  I’ve had that happen to me and son, it isn’t pretty.'

"During his weeklong stay in Springfield, Cobb has had a chance to visit the city’s nightspots, but he swears that he keeps to a rigid regimen when it comes to relaxing.  'I listen to country music, go cowboy dancing, have one or two beers---light beers---It’s hard to maintain this schoolgirl figure without drinking that light beer.'  Another bellowing laugh erupts from Cobb.

"An obvious question brings the only out of character 'character' response from the big man.  With his ability to act and box, why hasn’t he appeared in a boxing movie?  Some Sylvester Stallone special?  'Stallone and I don’t talk a whole lot,' Cobb says.  'But there’s an enormous amount of things in my personal life that parallel ‘Rocky,’ stuff that would break your heart.  But it don’t matter.'  The room turns quiet.  Cobb is being serious.  'In America, you can beat the odds.  I don’t want to hear about what’s wrong.  Don’t worry about what’s wrong.  You worry about what’s right and what you can do to be better, every day, every way.'  There’s a long pause.  And then it returns.  The smile, the stare, the gush of laughter.  The character has returned. " 

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