26-Years Ago Today: Holmes Retains Heavyweight Title, Cobb Proves His Toughness, Cosell Quits!

larry holmesBy James Slater: The November 26th, 1982 heavyweight title fight between defending champ Larry Holmes and challenger Randall “Tex” Cobb was so one-sided, the very fact that the match was permitted to carry on for mismatched round after mismatched round brought about the retirement of late, great commentating legend Howard Cosell. Never again would Howard sit behind a microphone and describe the action from a pro boxing match.

And despite Cobb’s faculties being in fine enough working order after the fight to be able to utter the memorable quote he came out with upon hearing of Cosell’s actions - namely that he could provide his sport with no greater service - this quip did not in any way lessen the fact of just how one sided and pitiful the bout had been to watch. Cosell had many detractors, to be sure, but he was openly concerned with the health and future quality of life for Cobb, who he referred to during the fight broadcast as a fine and decent man. Surely then, one can only salute Howard and his motives for doing what he did. His handing in of his microphone was his way of protesting the very type of mismatch that boxing was more and more becoming accustomed to.

Just how bad was the fight to watch then? It must have been pretty wretched for Cosell, a man who simply loved commentating on the great fights, to have given up a large part of his commentary duties as a direct result of it. Looking at the fight on tape today, it cannot be any easier on the eyes now than it was back when it occurred in 1982. Watching the fight in full for the very first time, I was struck by three things. Number one, “Tex” Cobb’s courage was unimaginably limitless, number two, the officials in charge were nothing short of appalling for not bringing an end to the proceedings (this includes Cobb’s own corner-men) and three, Larry Holmes’ left jab was THE finest in heavyweight history. All three of these factors from the fight cannot be forgotten. Indeed, as bad as the fight was, it is one of the most well remembered heavyweight fights from the 1980’s.

Cobb did not win a single round on two of the judge’s cards, while Randy won a solitary round on the third card. Put simply, the fight was a shut-out. Larry basically won the early and middle rounds with nothing more than his jab and the occasional right hand. Cobb could not get near him at all. He was off balance, his attacks were embarrassing in their crudity, and his defence was nonexistent. But so was his desire to give up. Randy’s heart was truly legendary. This was evident in the later rounds, when Holmes began landing big punches flush on the challenger’s head and jaw. It wasn’t a case of Holmes merely out-boxing Cobb now, he was beating him severely. Randy was busted up real bad and was all but out on his feet. It was at this point in the contest that Howard Cosell went uncharacteristically silent. He later remarked that such one sided butchering was unworthy of commentary.

The fight lasted for the full forty five minutes, and during these painful minutes - painful for Cobb mostly, but also for the viewing audience and anyone who respects the human condition - there was nothing on display that could be used to defend the existence of the sport of boxing. We may applaud a man’s courage, as we did Cobb’s in this fight, but a fighter has to at least have an outside chance of victory.

Love Cosell or hate Cosell, but “Howie” understood boxing. Ask yourself this, would any of today’s fight-callers give up so much by doing what the former ABC anchorman did?

Article posted on 26.11.2011

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