Cobbs continues battling long odds
A five-year-old child sits in front of a television in the living room of his Compton, Calif., home on a warm, summer afternoon.
Article posted on 19.03.2012
“Get up!” his mother yells. “You’re sitting too close..”
As he begins walking away from the television, Kevin Cobbs trips over his own shoelace and falls face-first into the carpet. Seconds later, a stray bullet rips through the living-room window, right where Cobbs had been sitting.
“If I didn’t get up, I would’ve been done for,” he said. “That’s how close it was.”
Cobbs survived that day, but his near brush with death was only the beginning of his troubled childhood. Born in Willimantic, Conn., Cobbs moved from city to city growing up, at times raising both he and his two sisters without the presence of a father figure while his mother battled her own vices – among them alcohol, drugs and excessive partying.
The fighter inside him never allowed Cobbs to stray too far from the straight and narrow. Through it all, he persevered, fighting stereotypes and injustices along the way, and is now on the brink of stardom in boxing’s highly-competitive super middleweight division.
Cobbs will return to action Thursday, March 22nd, 2012 at the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln, R.I., in a four-round bout against Connecticut’s Ahmad Mickens – Cobbs’ third fight since turning professional in April. The fight is part of Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports’ “Home Invasion” show, the debut of the 2012 Twin River Thursday Night Fight Series.
“I want people to know who I am and where I came from, both good and bad,” Cobbs said.
“I want to do a lot in this sport – not just be a boxer. I really want to give back. A lot of people don’t have the opportunity I have in front of me right now. Hopefully, I can get there one day.”
Cobbs’ path to professional boxing was unlike that of most young prospects. He didn’t start training until he was 23, and aside from the fact he and his two sisters each had different fathers – Cobbs finally spoke to his father for the first time just two and a half years ago – Cobbs also had to deal with the family’s nomadic lifestyle, living everywhere from Massachusetts to California.
“I was always somewhere different as a kid,” he said, “and my mother was kind of a partier growing up, so the problems she went through really weighed on us.
“There was a lot of drinking … abusive boyfriends … so I acted out a lot. I was kind of a tough kid to deal with growing up; it was a very stressful household.”
Out west, Cobbs narrowly escaped death, prompting the family to pack up its belongings and head back to New England.
“We put everything in black trash bags and took a two-day bus ride to Connecticut,” Cobbs recalled, “but nothing changed. The partying, the drinking … it was all the same.”
Cobbs spent the next nine years in Connecticut before the family packed up again and moved to Vermont. Life up north wasn’t any easier; as one of the few black families in the neighborhood, Cobbs dealt with unwelcomed racial tension.
“Everyday I’d go to school and have a hangman drawn in my locker from one of the upperclassmen,” he recalled.
After high school, Cobbs briefly moved to South Carolina to live with his girlfriend. He returned two years later and began working odd jobs to help his mother with the household.
By the time he reached his 20s, Cobbs had matured considerably, but still hadn’t found his calling. A natural athlete in high school, he spent most of his free time exercising and lifting weights, weighing nearly 200 pounds when he first stepped foot into Bob Baker’s Precision Boxing Club in Burlington.
“I had a couple of friends who always went to this gym in the area,” Cobbs recalled. “One day, I went in myself. No one was there. I had no idea what I was doing.
“The next day, I came back and they had a boxing class, so I decided to stick around.”
Baker soon took Cobbs under his wing, and Cobbs adapted quickly to the boxing lifestyle.
“He showed me the ropes,” Cobbs said. “I was on YouTube, reading books – it became my life.
“I had this natural ability,” he continued. “The other sports I played helped me so much. Throwing a one-two combination was easy to me because I compared it to, say, bouncing a basketball. They’re all related. I learned so much about the sport and what the science was about – how to train your body to do certain things.
“It felt right.”
Cobbs’ natural ability led him to a brief, but successful, amateur career in which he won 14 bouts, took home the Rocky Marciano Tournament championship at super heavyweight, and won three consecutive regional Golden Gloves titles in the heavyweight division. He wanted to turn pro, but knew he’d need to leave Vermont and head elsewhere to further hone his craft.
Once again, fate intervened.
“I get this phone call one morning at like 3 o’clock,” Cobbs said. “The guy says, ‘Sorry to be calling you so late, but I saw you at the Golden Gloves and loved your style.’
The call came from local manager Bobby Smead, who put Cobbs in touch with Massachusetts-based trainer Libby Medeiros of New Bedford. No one, including Cobbs, knew what to expect the first time Cobbs stepped foot inside Medeiros’ gym.
“I walk in ahead of Bobby and all of these guys are sitting around waiting for us,” Cobbs recalled. “I said hello and just sat down. Then Bobby walks in after me and one of the other fighters says, ‘Hey, Bobby, where’s this white kid from Vermont?’
“They had no idea it was me.”
The rest is history. Cobbs eventually parted ways with Smead after winning his professional debut against Nick Lavin, but is now under the direction of manager Israel Santiago, who also manages New Bedford welterweight Johnathan Vazquez (also appearing on the undercard March 22nd at Twin River).
“He’s the perfect guy to have in my corner, both as a manager and a friend,” Cobbs said. “He makes sure I stay on point, makes sure I get sparring, and gets my training together.”
Cobbs now lives in New Bedford, where he absorbs the knowledge and wisdom of other local fighters such as “Sucra” Ray Oliveira and Scott “The Sandman” Pemberton. Along the way, he’s worked with fellow pros Yusuf Mack and Chad Dawson, and even gets a little advice now and then from former contender Jon Scully.
“He calls me before every fight to give me a pep talk,” Cobbs said of Scully. “He’s a big mentor.”
After years of trying to find his place – literally and figuratively – Cobbs finally has a permanent home, both in and outside the ring, and he won’t quit until the journey is complete. He’s fought his whole life; boxing is just another hurdle to overcome.
“I’ve got a nice, long list,” Cobbs said. “I honestly feel I have the ability to take over New England step by step if I concentrate and push myself to the limit.”
“Home Invasion” also features the long-awaited return of super middleweight Vladine Biosse (11-1-1, 6 KOs) of Providence, R.I., who will face George Armenta (14-7, 11 KOs), a dangerous veteran from Silver Spring, Md., in a six-round bout; while New Bedford welterweight Jason “School Boy” Pires (22-4-1, 9 KOs) will face Eddie Soto (12-3, 4 KOs) of Pawtucket, R.I., in a six-round special attraction.
Fan-favorites Alex Amparo (2-0, 1 KO) of Providence and Benny Costantino (7-0, 4 KOs) of Warwick, R.I., will also return to Twin River following victories in October. Costantino, 40, will continue his comeback in a four-round super middleweight bout against Yolexcy Leiva (4-2, 3 KOs) of Nashville, Tenn.; Costantino’s victory over Odias Dumezil in October was his first fight in 10 years. Amparo will be featured in a separate, four-round bout.
Unbeaten middleweight prospect Thomas Falowo (5-0, 4 KOs) of Pawtucket will face Troy Artis (3-2-1, 2 KOs) of Bronx, N.Y., while light welterweight Carlos Hernandez (1-2) of Bridgeport, Conn., will battle Robert Brando-Hunt (0-1) of Hyannis, Mass., who is searching for his first professional win. Female welterweight Aleksandra Magdziak Lopes (5-1, 1 KO) of Quincy, Mass., will face Ashleigh Curry (4-6-2, 1 KO) of St. Joseph, Mo.
Tickets for “Home Invasion” are $35.00, $50.00, $75.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and can be purchased by calling CES at 401.724.2253/2254, online at www.cesboxing.com or www.twinriver.com, at the Players Club booth at Twin River, or through any TicketMaster location. Doors open 6 p.m. with the first bout scheduled for 7.
(Twin River has waived its 18+ rule for “Home Invasion.” Anybody under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and must enter through the West entrance.)
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