When I ask people who were adults back in the seventies and eighties what they remember most about the heavyweight boxer turned actor, Randall “Tex” Cobb, I get a varying array of answers. Some recall the true fact that when Larry Holmes just demolished Cobb in fifteen bloody rounds in Houston back on November 16th, 1982 for the W.B. C. Heavyweight Championship, ring sportscaster Howard Cosell pledged that he would never cover another professional match; and thankfully for millions of us he didn’t. He was just utterly disgusting most of the time; especially when he came on as an elitist, an oratorical elitist, which was all the time.
Others remember Cobb’s natural acting skills in the movies, in particular his first movie role as Bowers in the 1979 tearjerker “The Champ” featuring John Voight and Ricky Schroeder.
But a couple of the most exciting things about Randall I remember, who by the way, recently graduated at age fifty-seven, magna cum laude from Temple University with a baccalaureate degree in sport and recreation management, was our first eventful meeting at Hobo Joe’s in El Paso and his subsequent battle with my fighter, David “Chunky” Ochoa, .before Randall left El Paso for the brutality of professional boxing career at Joe Frazier’s Gym in Philadelphia.
I was going through a very emotional divorce back in late 1974 and I didn’t have a pot to pee in. January of 1975 found me living in some nasty quarters in the Sunset Heights district of El Paso that did have a poop stained toilet and a filthy tub. I also had two roommates, both wino’s. I felt like I was cursed. And then Old Dame Fortune did me right.
I received a message from boxing manager and promoter Paul Clinite at Austin High School where I was teaching science. He wanted to meet with me in reference to some of my Golden Gloves fighter’s, especially one tough hunk of a kid, David Ochoa. So I got back to Paul as quickly as possible. I had known him briefly for years and I knew he could turn a buck. And did I ever need some bucks. I made the call and we met for some salad and small talk at the truck stop at 6666 Gateway East.
The meeting went right to the main point; Paul was interested in turning David into a professional heavyweight and I would retain an interest in him as well as being involved in his training regimen. Of course, I let Paul know that David, all 6’ 245 lbs. of him was seeking another course of action; movies and kickboxing. Paul suggested that we make arrangements to get David for a threesome sit-down and explain the business end of the fight game and how David, with proper management and training, could have a lucrative future. I promised to give the idea my best shot.
David Ochoa was a mean-ass all-district linebacker on the Austin High School football team’s Junkyard Dog’s back in 1972-73. He didn’t hit opposing player’s, he smashed them unmercifully as the coaches designated him with the mission of search and destroy. David was already a 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon do and had won two Regional Golden Gloves championships under my tutelage. So I approached him and let him know what Clinite had put on the table. He wasn’t overly impressed. He was furiously bitter about what came down in a recent non-full contact karate bout at El Paso High school with Randall Cobb or the Abilene Cowboy as David called him. In the match that David won, he claimed that Cobb went to some dirty kicking tactics beyond the rules and that he did the same because he was infuriated that the ref had only warned Cobb. The ref finally penalized both combatants but when the match ended the fight didn’t. David and Randall evidently wanted to spill some blood. Calmer heads prevailed and the fighter’s separated. However, words were exchanged and David told me that he wanted revenge and a measure of blood - like a quart. Still, he agreed to meet with promoter Clinite.
The three of us met and when Clinite realized that David wasn’t interested in turning pro boxer, not yet, he asked about an alternative. Kempo Karate Sifu, Rick Reyna, suggested that karate instructor Robert Nava and I be given the funding and necessary equipment to put on some full-contact fights at the El Paso Coliseum with David and Randall as the main event. Clinite liked the idea and gave us thumbs up to get the job done.
Nava and I got busy and arranged the show with local and out of town karate coaches and enthusiasts. All the demonstrations and fights were made by Rick Reyna who had been designated the matchmaker. He informed us that Cobb, a behemoth who had played football for Abilene Christian College, not only accepted the challenge but that he would be there to kick David’s butt once and for all, guaranteeing for all.
Cobb arrived a day before the scheduled war with Ochoa and after departing his plane, met Clinite, Reyna, Nava and myself at Sambo’s restaurant at the corner of Montana and Airway’s boulevard. Well, he sort of met us. We were apprehensive because we were at the entrance of the restaurant and he apparently wasn’t on time. However, a scraggly, unkempt mountain of a young man in ruffled jeans, a tee shirt and sandals approached us and asked if we were looking for him. We were startled but realized in a heartbeat that this was Cobb. Introductions were made and we went in the entrance for breakfast. A sign on the entry door glass surface beckoned to all that there would be no service without proper attire. As it turned out, it was the manager who had to be wary. He saw the bum looking intruder in our midst and made strides in our direction. However, a nasty looking deadly gaze from Cobb allowed him a quick improvisation: yep, he made a quick oblique left turn to the men’s room and Cobb and the rest of us sauntered on in and were seated by a precious and good-looking waitress in her late teen’s..
Cobb was a hungry rascal and he woofed down three plates of breakfast post haste. He even wowed or frightened the customer’s at other tables by standing up and going through all kinds of physical contortions. He raised his log-like leg’s head - up to the ceiling. Then he executed some unbelievable round house and other karate kicks that were keen to watch but embarrassing to say the least. I thought to myself that this guy might just be a strange buffoon and our show might be in serious jeopardy. He even got chummy with the waitress who didn’t seem to mind at all the attention the grizzly appearing Cobb bestowed on her. I believe he may have given her an invitation she didn’t want to refuse.
Finally, Cobb finished his large portions of food after his talented display and flirtation and got down to the business at hand. Clinite gave him the contract and he signed it for the seventy-five dollars, the same amount Ochoa was getting paid. Then he was whisked away to finish his fight preparations and think about strategy against the mighty Ochoa.
The historical event, first ever full contact matches in the Sun City in February of 1975, got underway at 6:00 p.m. before an excited crowd - excited for Cobb’s blood. For the time being the personal vendettas would occur much later in the evening.
The outstanding preliminaries were good and competitive. Then it was time for the war, time for the blood feud between Ochoa and Cobb. But another incident slowed the show. Ochoa and Cobb came to me at ringside and declared that they were not going to shed their blood for so little money. I thought for a moment that they were going to whup my butt. I did have a sidekick, one hell of a street-fighter named Dennis Scanlan at my side as I had an inclination during my restless hours the night previous to the fight that something I couldn’t put my finger on was amiss. After a heated and short confrontation, both fighters realized I didn’t have what they wanted: money. I convinced them to go to the ticket office with me and sort things out with Clinite.
Paul Clinite was a cool customer. During the Great Depression he was back east and had lost his job but gained employment with some mob types as a collections runner. . He was so good at it that he was offered higher status work. He gave them polite notice that he wanted to pursue a career in boxing and headed west. Over the years his managerial skills showed through and he became successful and well-known in the national boxing scene. Moreover, he was always suave and savvy and regarded as one hell of a real cool dude.
How cool was he? Clinite took less than two minutes to lay the hammer down on Ochoa and Cobb. He promised them more money but with the stipulation that both men sign professional boxing contracts with him. I couldn’t believe how quickly they accepted. Randall was eager for some dough as his Mother had cancer and he wanted to help her. Ochoa wanted to dispatch Cobb by getting equal money and then get on with a boxing career. Finally, all was set. And since I was one of Ochoa’s coaches, we made a quick beeline to the ring. The raucous crowd, booing continuously because of the late start, was suddenly elated and targeted their booing towards Cowboy Cobb.
The fighter’s were called to the center of the ring and got downright nasty as the ref gave his instructions. Some unnecessary noxious verbal crap was exchanged. I had previously told Ochoa to be calm and not let his emotions get in the way of our fight plan. I think he could have cared less. He wanted Cobb’s blood and he had a single mindset about that goal. Okay, the bell rang and we would shortly know who would be standing and victorious. Smart betting fan’s put their money on a quick knockout.
Both fighters did a few seconds of feeling each other out and Cobb was really uptight as he missed four or five kicks that were way off target. He was as I had predicted to Ochoa, not very good with his hands as he had no sting in his punches. In boxing jargon, he was a real Palooka. Meanwhile, Ochoa recognized the ineptness of his prey and peppered him with jabs and an occasional right. He threw a few kicks that landed to Cobb’s midriff and a stunning left to Cobb’s forehead. Realizing his opportunity late in the round, the left-handed Ochoa, spun to his left as the combatants were at close quarters and ripped a sizzling spinning back fist dead-center on Cobb’s jaw. The impact was so loud that it reverberated throughout the venue. It seemed deadly and most in attendance expected the lumbering giant to be felled. But like an oak tree, Cobb was difficult to chop down. It was certainly impressive that he was only jolted by the blast. That was testament to his will power. And he actually grinned as Ochoa pursued his advantage with a few more well-time hand combinations before the bell.
The hometown crowd was in a victory mode after round one. Their man had been scintillating and they expected the Cowboy to be put to sleep in the next round or two. In Ochoa’s corner, we were positive about the huge first round but wary for two reasons: first. Cobb had taken a serious knockout shot that hardly fazed him. Second, Ochoa was not listening to our instructions for victory. Instead, he boasted that Cobb was a sucker for his back fists and would be sent back to Abilene on a stretcher. I understood where he was coming from but we also saw that Cobb had a very resilient chin. Our attempts to get Ochoa to stay with the game plan and simply outbox his worthy adversary fell on deaf ears. Ochoa felt so superior after the round that he predicted he was going to knock out the Cowboy in the next round. We thought otherwise as it was evident to us that Cobb was fiercely tenacious and could pose a problem once loosened up and of course, ready to display his own weapons.
For a few seconds into the next round we thought maybe Ochoa was correct and we were incorrect in our assessment of Cobb. David just charged out of the corner and so did Randall. The later covered well as David just rained punches on him but couldn’t stop the thundering and effective back fists that were slamming deadly into his face and jaw. Still, he somehow managed to hold his center position until David wound up and executed the most brilliant and explosive back fist of his career. It landed dead flush on Randall’s jaw and was more ferocious than the great back fist David landed in the first round. But lo and behold, Cobb staggered but he didn’t fall, he didn’t succumb to the monstrous punch or David’s relentless attack. Instead, he stepped back, looked sternly at David, and after making a scurrilous remark to his foe, unleashed a series of roundhouses and sidekicks and finally a vicious and stone - breaking axe kick that caught David form the top of his head and then traveled down his face and into his chest. David fell like he had been shot with a canon ball. It was all over, just like that. David was one hell of a karate fighter and boxer but he had no answer for a man like Cobb; a man with a chin of granite and the resolve to overcome awesome head and chin shots by his opponent; shots that would have destroyed most humans. Having said that, Randall wasn’t superhuman but he was supercharged and played the fight to his strengths. Unfortunately, so did David. Randall may have had a nosebleed but David had his face ripped open and had to be taken to Providence Hospital for a dozen stitches or so.
I mentioned earlier in this story that my Old Dame Fortune might be doing me right. Well, after David and Randall recovered from the brutal fight, both signed contracts with Paul Clinite. Randall was to be under my tutelage for a few months in preparation for a move to Joe Frazier’s gym. Since he was a boxing Palooka at the time, Paul arranged for me to just teach him a few basics and develop a boxing style. He also hooked us up with an entrepreneur named Henry Lowe to provide us with free housing, utilities and a food allowance. Better yet, we would make some extra income the “Texas Hold ‘Em” way. But that is another story that will be forthcoming.
By Convicted Artist trainer & writer Thomas "the Wizard" McKay