Larry Holmes couldn’t do it. Earnie Shavers was unsuccessful in his attempt. So too were Ken Norton, Bernardo Mercardo, Michael Dokes, and James “Buster” Douglas. Not one of these good to great fighters, each of them no slouch when it came to being able to hit with heavyweight authority, was able to put a dent in arguably the most legendary heavyweight chin of the last 40 years or so – that which belonged to Randy “Tex” Cobb.
One of the toughest, most durable, hit-me-and-I-like it hombres ever to set foot in the squared circle, Cobb sure was made of stern stuff. As he might have said himself if describing his fighting ability in his own unique (and very funny) way: Tex was “a whole britches full of nasty!” Indeed, grown men had to look away when Cobb took a working over in the ring; Tex most brutally knocked about by heavyweight king Larry Holmes in the fight that so disgusted and disturbed Howard Cosell, the commentator quitting the sport afterward.
That beating went all 15 rounds, and there was Cobb, still standing, and coming out with one-liners at the end. Holmes suffered severe pain in both hands. Heaven knows what Cobb’s head felt like – or what it was made of.
Shavers, described by plenty as The Puncher Of The Century, cracked Cobb with more than enough lethal shots during their slo-mo slugfest of a couple of years before Randy’s one and only world title chance. Yet Cobb didn’t fall – in fact, he won that one. By now, Cobb had earned his rep as a seriously hard man; a man, nobody, would ever be able to KO. Distance fights with Norton (a loss), Mercardo (a win), Douglas (a loss), and Dokes (a loss – Tex later losing a technical decision to Dokes, when cuts forced the ending of the fight) only served to reinforce this opinion.
That’s why, on the night of October 29, 1985, it was such a shock when little-known Dee Collier, who was no big puncher and was coming off two defeats, knocked Cobb flat. Four times Cobb went down, this in the opening round. How could this have happened? Sure, Cobb was getting older, he had been decked, for the first time in his career, in his previous fight when he was decisioned by Eddie Gregg. But taken out inside three minutes, by a non-puncher?
Even Collier was stunned: “I couldn’t believe it myself, to tell you the truth,” the victor said afterward.
To this day, some fans suggest Tex went into the tank, that he took a dive. There is zero proof of this, but it makes for a good story. You could watch the fight in an attempt to make up your own mind, except you can’t – the footage of the fight being either incredibly scarce or darn near unobtainable by anyone. This fact only adds to the suspicion that the fight was a set-up. Collier, a far better fighter than his record reads, never KO’d anyone of Cobb’s stature, either before that October night in ’85 or afterward (his best wins aside from the Cobb shocker being stoppage wins over Mark Wills and an unbeaten Alex Garcia).
Of all the things in the sport of boxing that make you go Hmmmmm, Collier KO1 Cobb ranks as the most perplexing for some. Was Cobb merely worn out by 1985, his astonishing chin as eroded as even a rock will become if it’s dripped on by falling water for long enough? Or did the modern-day fighting caveman agree – for whatever reason or reasons – to take a fall? Will we ever know for sure?
Randall ‘Tex’ Cobb finished his career with a record of 42-7-1 35 KOs.