If Randall Cobb beats up Larry Holmes on national television Friday, which even he admits isn't very likely, we soon would face a new American sports challenge -- find the heavyweight champ.
"If I win I'll probably buy me a mountain somewhere, get a gun and shoot anybody that comes along," said Cobb, who is called Tex.
That would be Cobb's happy reaction to instant fame should he capture the World Boxing Council heavyweight title. If he loses he'll have to return to Philadelphia and get back to training, which would suit him less well.
"I'm not saying I hate Philly," said the 235-pound former lineman from Abilene Christian. "There's a lot to be said for cold weather, cement and people with bad manners."
Friday night will mark the fifth time Cobb has been slated to fight for one world heavyeweight title or another. The first four scheduled bouts, all with WBA champ Mike Weaver, fell through for a variety of reasons. The first postponement came after Cobb was injured in a street fight. "I cleverly decided to scrimmage the west side of Philadelphia," he said, "and I spotted them the tire irons." Later postponements came when he and Weaver were injured in sparring.
Why do Holmes and Weaver want so badly to face Cobb, who has only 23 professional bouts and no amateur experience? Is it something about the way he fights?
"I think it's something about the way I don't fight," chuckled Cobb. "I'm certainly the guy with the least experience in the (heavyweight) division. But that's changing every day. If I was them I'd want to be fighting me now, too, instead of later."
Despite his limited experience, Cobb is the WBC's fifth-ranked heavyweight, and he believes the fact he is a Texas cowpoke himself doesn't hurt his appeal in Houston, where Friday's nationally televised 10 p.m. showdown (WJLA-TV-7) will take place.
"I don't believe it's strictly the result of my incredible good looks or purity of spirit," said Cobb, whose grizzled mug looks like the aftermath of a good saloon war. "Let's face it, in this business it pays to kick a white boy's behind."
Cobb doesn't go in for traditional prefight wars of nerves.
"We signed a contract to play a game in a ring with padded gloves for some money. That's fine. Now, if they want to renegotiate the rules, I'll be happy to take him (Holmes) out in the alley and break his knees and rip his lungs out," said Cobb, who was a barroom bouncer before beginning his ring career five years ago.
Instead, this battle no doubt will be played out in the ring and Cobb's plan is to try to overcome Holmes' superior boxing skill and experience by outworking the champion and hoping for some breaks.
The challenger has been training hard ("been sober for months," he grumbles) with the goal of getting in such good condition he can throw punches nonstop for 15 rounds, up to 150 per round.
"To the best of my understanding," said Cobb by phone from Houston, where he was in the final week of training, "only one guy gets to fight at a time. If I'm throwing, you're either ducking or weaving or running. So if I throw leather all the time, you don't get to throw much. And when you're fighting something that you can't hurt and it won't stop, darlin', you got trouble."
Cobb, 28, has lost twice in his brief pro career, back-to-back defeats two years ago to speedy Michael Dokes and aging Ken Norton. Both were 10-round decisions. He has never been knocked out.
Against the classy Holmes, who cut apart the last slugger to face him, Gerry Cooney, Cobb has serious work cut out, particularly since he has a penchant for bringing out the best in veteran opponents. Norton, Earnie Shavers and Bernardo Mercado all told him they fought as well against him as they ever had, Cobb said.
"I'm tired of ticking these guys off," said Cobb. "I've been in situations where I said, 'You couldn't hurt this guy with a bat.' Friday night that guy's going to be me."