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Steve Springer

Calls Are Few for Collier Despite His Job on Cobb

January 05, 1986|STEVE SPRINGER

Dee Collier was pointing a finger at a reporter.

"You gave Tex Cobb two pages in the paper," he said defiantly. "Now where's my two pages?"

It doesn't quite work that way, but the reporter was not about to argue with a man who had just flattened Cobb--not once, but five times in the first round of their late October fight at The Country Club in Reseda.

That, Collier naturally figured, ought to be worth two pages in the newspaper. Maybe more. After all, he had accomplished what former heavyweight champions Larry Holmes and Ken Norton, along with Earnie Shavers and Michael Dokes, had not been able to do.

None of them had put Cobb down. Not even once.

Since Collier's first-round knockout of Cobb, however, the Los Angeles heavyweight hasn't exactly been inundated with fight offers.

The camp of Michael Spinks, the man who beat Holmes, has talked about making Collier a sparring partner for the new champion, with a chance to fight on the undercard of his first title defense. There has been an offer to fight in Canada, and a feeler from Africa to fight a heavyweight who calls himself Kilimanjaro.

"I thought I would hear from more people by now," Collier says. "I thought I would hear from some big promoters like Don King. I guess maybe it's because of the holiday season. I'm still waiting. I'm hoping there will be more calls by the end of the month. If not, I will be disappointed. I shocked a lot of people that night. Like myself, for instance.

"I've got a better mental attitude now. More respect. But I'm only being offered two to three grand for a fight. I'm in the $10,000 category now. No less than that. I did something nobody else could do."

Up until that point, Collier, 25, had not had a particularly distinguished career. A three-year pro, Collier had a record of 8-3 with four knockouts the night he entered the ring to fight Cobb.

"You wouldn't believe it if I told you all the fight people that turned thumbs down on our decision to take that fight," says Ovid Hill, one of Collier's managers. "They said I was money hungry. They said Cobb would knock his brains out. We were condemned.

"But I know Dee is not easily hit. I know he is a good defensive fighter. I know Dee can take care of himself. So I kept him in the background and didn't let him listen to that outside talk. The word was around that he wouldn't last two or three rounds. I told him, 'Don't let Tex bulldoze you. You go to him, stay low and meet his challenge.' We knew Tex was a slow starter, so we figured we would gamble.

"I know that kid," Hill says of his fighter. "I know who to put him in with. I think he could hold his own with Michael Spinks. I would put him in there with Spinks any day and twice on Sunday. I would let him fight Spinks tomorrow. That's how much confidence I have in him."

That confidence is still not shared by others in the fight community. The result: few offers.

Some will tell you that the 6-2, 210-pound Collier just got in a lucky punch from which Cobb couldn't recover; that Collier has a wild, undisciplined style. Others will tell you that Cobb was shot; that he caved in to the cumulative result of years of punishment in the ring rather than anything Collier threw.

Until he proves otherwise, the closest Collier will get to Spinks or any other champion is a sparring match. One punch, one round, even one fight does not a career make.

Frankie Goodman, owner of Goodman's Gym in Van Nuys and the man who shares the management of Collier with Hill, thinks a sparring role in Spinks' camp would be a good one for his fighter.

"I think beyond being a sparring partner," Goodman says, "it would give Dee some exposure to the world."

Forget it, says Hill.

"He's too good a fighter. I don't want him to be a sparring partner for anybody," Hill says. "That would hurt his chances to move up the ladder. He would always be a sparring partner."

One thing the two men do not argue about is what the knockout of Cobb has meant to Collier.

"He is a 100% better fighter than he was a month ago," Goodman says. "He knows now that he can knock people out. He made a statement after everybody told him he could do nothing but run out of the place. The guy can punch. The Cobb people thought they had a real turkey in Collier.

"But the only thing he needed was confidence. All fighters are scared to death when they get in that ring. They all need confidence."

Goodman would like to see his young fighter take on someone like top, unbeaten prospect Mike Tyson (15-0 with 15 knockouts). But the 71-year-old Goodman has spent a half century in the fight game and he knows the rules. He knows that today, the key figure in the heavyweight division is promoter Don King.

"In the last analysis," Goodman says, "we may have to sign with King."

They could do worse. If Collier indeed has talent and King wants him, that could mean television time, and then, who knows? Maybe, someday, two pages in the newspaper.

Sounds a lot better than going to Africa to take on Kilimanjaro.

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