Born: August 24, 1950
There are few boxers in the 20th Century whose pro debut was as anticipated at that of Golden Glove Heavyweight standout, Duane Bobick. The state of Minnesota alone, would have to go back to 1944 to the debut of Jackie Graves to find an experience as close in comparison. The 6′ 3″ Bowlus native was quite simply, the hottest prospect the Golden Gloves had to offer in 1972, as he had won the Gold Medal in the 1971 Pan Am Games, crushing a stunned Teofilio Stevenson by unanimous decision and stopping a young Larry Holmes to qualify for the 72′ Olympics. Riding a 61 fight winning streak going into the Olympic Games, a year in which he also won the National Golden Gloves Title, Bobick was viewed as unbeatable. Though he came up short to Stevenson in the Olympic Games, Duane was still the #1 blue-chip prospect upon turning pro in 1973, and viewed as the future successor to Muhammad Ali. With a right hand that hit like the hammer of Thor, and a left like a battering ram, he was well-equipped for the mission.
Tabbed as, “The Great White Hope” from the day he turned pro, Duane Bobick felt the weight of the world on his broad, muscular shoulders to bring home a world title. But what a weight he carried, not only in pressure, but also in power, as he had knocked out no less than 1/3 of his opponents with body punches; something Duane would come to be known for during his star-studded career. He even was reported to have KO’d three men with his jab alone. He signed under the management of Bill Daniels, the wealthy Denver businessman, who immediately hired the renowned Chickie Ferrara and Murphy Griffith to be his trainers. Duane won his first 19 fights by KO, a Minnesota record that stands to this day, and it earned him Ring Magazine’s “Rookie of the Year” award as well. But 1973 was just the beginning for the 210 pound Bowlus native, as 1974 would bring 10 more victories, 8 of them by knockout.
By 1975, Duane was a superstar, gracing the covers of various magazines and now under the management of Smokin’ Joe Frazier. 1975 brought with it 8 more fights and 7 more knockouts, including a big victory over the highly-regarded Randy Neumann to close the year out. Going into 1976, Bobick was a perfect 33-0, and started the year off with an impressive 10 round unanimous decision over Larry Middleton at Madison Square Garden. But there was one fight that was about to take place that forever shaped Duane’s career and place in Minnesota boxing history, and that was his next fight against arch-rival, Scott LeDoux in April of 76′. It was being billed as the fight of the century for Minnesota, and many speculated if it would break state records for gate and attendance. They needn’t have worried themselves, as it shattered both marks, with an attendance of 13,789, and gate of $113,725, as Duane beat Scott from pillar to post that night, winning every round from “The Fighting Frenchman” and solidifying his world ranking in the process.
Following the huge victory over LeDoux and winning the state Heavyweight Championship, Duane traveled to Germany where he stopped Bunny Johnson in 8 rounds, before coming back to the States and stopping the iron-jawed, Chuck Wepner in 6 very bloody rounds in New York. He then signed to fight another undefeated prospect in Fred Houpe, a tough fight for Duane, but one in which he secured a unanimous decision victory that propelled him to the Heavyweight title elimination bout against Ken Norton in May of 1977. Critics were split as to who would be the victor in this battle, but it was Norton who would prevail, as he caught Duane early in the opening round with a dangerous shot to the throat.
The loss was devastating to Duane, and many wondered how he would fare mentally after such a loss. Scott LeDoux was one of those wondering and thought it would be an excellent time to catch Bobick, as he was bound to be gun-shy and insecure. Only Scott thought wrong, as Duane took him apart even more thorough than he had in their first encounter, dropping the steel-chinned LeDoux, and stopping him for good in the 8th stanza. This second encounter between the state’s two most skilled Heavyweights brought in 9,122 people and a gate of $74,874.00.
The second win over LeDoux re-established Bobick on the national scale, but just as he was gearing up for another run at the title, he was stopped in a surprising loss in South Africa to the hard-punching Kallie Knoetze. This loss cost Duane his #5 ranking, and he was forced to re-dedicate himself as well as took on new management in the hiring of Dave Wolf. Wolf sought to get the big punching Heavyweight’s confidence back before taking on the world again, and lead Duane on an 8-fight winning streak before 1980 Olympian, John Tate caught Duane early in the opening round, and took with it, Bobick’s world ranking as well.
Duane had been noticing that his punches seemed to lack the steam that they once carried and sought out a doctor’s opinion on the matter, and after many tests, it was revealed that Duane had a serious case of Bursitis, and was only punching with a fraction of his once vaunted power. This would later explain Duane’s upset loss to George Chaplin in July of 79′, a fight after which Duane decided against continuing his quest for a world title, and ultimately, retiring for good. When it was all over, he was just 28 years-old and already rated among the state’s greatest Heavyweights of all-time. His final record of 48-4 with 42 KO’s is about as impressive as it gets, especially considering the talent-rich era of the 70′s for Heavyweights, in which he competed head-on against some of the greatest big men to ever take up the game.
Tonight we honor his many great accomplishments, and enshrine our latter-day Heavyweight bomber and body snatcher into state immortality. Welcome home Duane Bobick!