Anyone who saw Duane Bobick struggle against Pat Duncan at Captial Centre to win his 30th fight might be tempted to get down a bet on Ken Norton before the bell rings on Wednesday night in Madison Square Garden.
Now Bobick is 38-0 as a pro and seeing him plod around the ring with leaded spats over his shoes still suggests that he would be better off horsing around the farm in Bowlus, minn., with one of his eight brothers.
If Bobick isn't being pestered about the image of the Great White Hope, he is questioned about losing to Teofilo Stevenson of Cuba in the Olympics at Munich.
"I've had a lot of time to think about that," Bobick said as he rested in Bobby Gleason's gymnasium in the fur district on 31st Street. The sign outside offers "boxing lessons." Bobick had just returned from losing a rope-skipping contest to Norton in a publicity stunt for charity outside Penn Plaza on Seventh Avenue.
"After I beat Norton, I'd like to fight Stevenson." Bobick said. "Stevenson is not a great fighter; he made his reputation beating me in the Olympics. People don't know that I beat him in the Pan-Am Games before that.
"In Munich, he had a good day and I had a bad one. We're still 1-1. Even to this day, I know I was the best heavyweight in the Munich Olympic Games. Ask the Russians. They trained a guy just to beat me.
"Stevenson caught me with a right hand and just about closed my left eye in the first round. I beat him inside and won the second, so we were all even going into the third.
"I lost interest in the third round, thinking of the shootings of the Israelis, the politics affecting the Olmpics before that. The pain every time I got hit on the eye was awful. It broke my concentration. My mother was watching and I was worried about eye.
"Guys were being killed, others were being abducted to the airport. Suddenly my fight was not important to me. And I couldn't see Stevenson throwing right hands with my closed left eye."
Bobick indicated that he did not enjoy inflicting pain. Asked if he relished dealing out punishment, he said. "I don't enjoy hitting people, but enjoy the art of hitting without getting hit. I get no pleasure out of beating the hell out of somebody. I enjoy the mental game of outthinking, outmaneuvering an opponent, like in chess."
When reminded that he did not sound as if he had the killer instinct, said to be so necessary in boxing, he said, "there is a difference between being a killer and being competitive. I don't think anybody is more competitive than I am. I don't want to hurt anyone, but that doesn't mean if I do I won't capitalize on it."
Almost to the extent of being a bore. Bobick expresses absolute faith in manager Eddie Futch to teach him to beat anyone.
Asked what Futch's strategy was against Chuch Wepner, who lasted 15 rounds with Muhammad Ali and knocked down the champion, Bobick said. "Wepner uses his elbows, thumbs to the eyes, butts and hits low. he can do it and do it well.
"Eddie wanted me to experience that . . . to see if I could handle it. Everybody else had bombed Wepner's chin: I went to the body. He asked the referee to stop the fight in the sixth round, aguy who went 15 with Ali and nine with Sonny Liston.
"To make him say I've had enough. I think that's an accomplishment. I am going to do the same thing against Norton. That's my game plan; I don't change. I do have a jab. I can box some, though I am not a great boxer; but I can get by."
Asked what he thought of Norton, Bobick said: "He made his reputation against Ali. The only other good one he fought was George Foreman and he got bombed out in two rounds."
Norton decisioned Ali in their first bout and broke Ali's jaw, but was out-pointed in the next two bouts with Ali.
"I thought Norton won the second bout," Bobick said. "I had their third bout even, six rounds a peice and three even. I don't think Norton lost it; he just didn't win it. He wasn't agrressive enough."
Norton has ridiculed Bobick. As if to maintain his image as awomanizer in the film Mandingo, Norton said in a reply to a question that ordinarily he leads a celibat life for six weeks before a bout, but he cut it down to two weeks for the Bobick bout.
Norton also has said that the could not find a sparring partner slow enough to resemble Bobick in workouts.
Norton did not show to advantage as a ranking contender when he fought Ron Stander, a renowned easy target and bleeder, at Capital Centre in 1976 on the Ali-Jimmy Young card. It took him five rounds to dispose of the butcher boy from Coucil Bluffs, Iowa, and then it was the referee who stopped the bout.
If you are wondering what Bobick is doing in the ring with Norton, the physique freak who treated Ali with contempt on the way to being done out of a decision in their third bout, Futch has a ready rationale.
If Futch were the type to give up his patient schooling of Bobick for one big payday, Ali or Foreman would figure to draw more money with Bobick. So why Northon?
"People asked me the same thing before Norton fought Ali the first time," says Futch, who was Norton's manager then. "But nobody came back forward and said I made the right match. Who else should Duane might be more of a risk for him, just to get another number on his record? Duane is better every time, with a fighter, than with a cutie, but they make him look bad."
Futch was reminded that Norton has other skills than being a fighter and, if he is not quite a cutie, he can box.
"Skills?" Futch said, "I gave him the skills. The only two guys he boxed well against were Ali and Jerry Quarry. Quarry was ruined before that by the licking he took from Joe Frazier.
"Norton once worked out with Ali and looked pretty good, because I saw something in Ali's style that Norton could exploit.Ali was embarrassed by how Norton handled him. I took Norton right out of Ali's camp.
"The next day, Ali came out shouting, "I want Norton, where is he?" I said there would be no sparing. I said, yesterday was a workout today would be a fight. Norton get paid better than a sparing partner's fee for a fight."