Jack Kelley
August 03, 1987 12:00 PM

Boxer Randall “Tex” Cobb’s 45 minutes of glory came on Nov. 26, 1982, when he fought Larry Holmes. In one of the most lopsided heavyweight title bouts in history, Holmes brutalized Cobb for 15 rounds—three-quarters of an hour of punch time—leaving the contender’s face a pulpy, beet-red mulch. The mismatch so sickened Howard Closely that the veteran announcer vowed never to work as a boxing commentator again. The fight did not, however, sicken Cobb, who, when the final bell sounded, was not only standing, but eager for more. “Hey,” he barked, grabbing Holmes by the shoulders, “let’s do this again, in a phone booth!”

Five years later Cobb hasn’t gotten any mellower. Or prettier: His flattened face, highlighted by a rubberized nose that lost its cartilage years ago, would give pause to a pit bull. Nor has he lost his sense of humor. “Larry Holmes didn’t beat me,” says Cobb. “He just won the first fifteen rounds.” As for Cosell’s departure, he cracks, “If I cured cancer or eliminated heart disease, I don’t think I could give a greater gift to mankind.”

One thing has changed, however: Cobb, 33, has taken his tough-guy act out of the ring and onto the screen. In Golden Child he played one of Satan’s henchmen. In Police Academy 4 he beat up a little old lady. In Raising Arizona he plays a demonic bounty hunter who lobs hand grenades at bunnies. His grim visage has brought him guest shots on Miami Wee and Moonlighting, and his flair for language and philosophy has landed him on Late Night with David Letterman. How sweaty does the 6’3″, 238-lb. Cobb get when he works out? “I sweat like a whore on cowboy payday.” What does he think of Hollywood? “Pompous? My God. The peripheral folderol involved is tedious to the point of absolute distraction.” Then there’s Tex Cobb on the value of being bad: “Bad beats cool. Bad beats bright. Bad beats money. And if you don’t think so, give me the coolest, richest, smartest sumbitch in here and we’ll negotiate.”

Cobb began developing his world view in Bridge City, Texas, his hometown. His father, a factory foreman, died when Cobb was six, and his mother moved the family to Abilene. The third of four boys, Cobb recalls that he “wasn’t tough. I was just a fat little kid that looked like a beach ball with legs.” His older brother Dan was another story. “Dan would pick out two or three of the toughest kids in school, just beat ’em half to death and say, ‘My name’s Dan Cobb. You remember that,’ ” Tex recalls. “Of course, nobody ever touched me except Dan, and he just whupped me like old-time butter.”

In high school Cobb worked nights lugging beef at a meat-packing plant. After an abortive attempt at college—he is rumored to have fired flaming arrows at a rival dorm, while wearing only a jockstrap and shouting, “Get ready to die!”—he became a nightclub bouncer and took up full-contact karate for fun. That led to low-paying pro bouts, he jokes, “on the undercard of midget wrestling.” Next he tried boxing, turning pro in 1977. He lost to Holmes and Ken Norton, beat Earnie Shavers and is currently fighting—via lawsuit—former managers he claims bilked him out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. As usual, he’s philosophical. “I didn’t go into the fight game thinking it was Cub Scouts,” he says. “I knew they was liars, cheats and thieves. But I always figured if you’re good enough to where you’re the last man standing, hell, darlin’, you’re the tall dog that night.”

Although he has a wife, former El Paso disc jockey Sharon Hodge, 30, as well as two children from a previous marriage, all of whom would probably like to see him remain in one piece, Cobb still likes to be the tall dog. In North Carolina a few weeks ago to film Collision Course, an action comedy starring Jay Leno and Pat Morita, Cobb sneaked off the set for a few days—”I told ’em my grandmother was in a coma”—to box Big John Jackson, a 6’5″, 245-lb. former karate champ, in Birmingham, Ala. Cobb, who has dreams of landing another heavyweight title bout, bragged his way through the press conference (“You’ve gotta let the locals know there’s gonna be eyes, hair and teeth everywhere, that you’re gonna make America a better place to live”). Then, that evening, he stepped into the ring, led with his chin, absorbed excruciating punishment—and dropped Jackson in the fifth round, raising his record to 32-7. “I hit that man harder than I’ve ever hit any person or thing in my life,” Jackson said later. “His head went back but he didn’t blink. I hit him so hard it feels like my elbows were crushed.”

Back in his hotel room, Cobb was sore but satisfied. He had tested himself in a world where the difference between winning and losing is brutally clear, and he had remained standing. It’s not like making movies, he notes. In Hollywood, says Cobb, “If everything in the world goes wrong—hell, it’s just Take 2.”

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