BY AMBROSE EHIRIM
We had argued throughout the week of the fight and I had insisted the
"Motor City Cobra" would win on the last counts of the third round by a
A robust week. Everybody had talked about it.
It had all been up in the air, in smoke. The fight to reshape the
Cobra's image after losing to Sugar Ray Leonard in "The Showdown." It
was nothing closer to press coverages of "The Showdown," though, had
carried its own weight differently since the Cobra had to prove to lead
by analogy to Sugar Ray, if he knocks down his opponent a bit earlier
than going the distance. The Showdown had made the youngsters instant
millionaires when Sugar Ray came out smoking. Boxing had begun with a
new age in all divisions and a world of the sport cordially welcomed,
the new brand of fist bumping and body shots as the fight of the decade,
"The Showdown," popped up.
Never before seen in the
history of the sport, two youngsters, energetic and fired up, to what
had gone viral on the airwaves, the word of mouth and other related
means of communication a brutal sport in a division have been talked
about and, cash to be made by both fighters, from betting and
advertisements to endorsements and speaking engagements.
lost enormously in "The Showdown," having counted on a Motor City Cobra
win by a knockout in the third round on the basis of the Cobra's
phenomenal hard-punching power from previous fights and, from what
boxing analysts and bookmakers had marked down as a done deal on the
The flamboyant Sugar Ray had Angelo Dundee
on his corner, having the hunch he would lose the fight with an eye
totally closed up and destroyed from the Cobra's punches, woke up,
fighting like a wounded lion, determined and courageous, seeing the
wobbling legs of the Cobra who had lost steam from a distant fight,
knocked the Cobra out technically in the fourteenth round.
an entire week, "The Showdown" written extensively and analyzed in the
nation's spoilsports columns every sports reader rushed to with the feel
of what had become a decade of the pugilists.
"Hitman," "Motor City Cobra" Hearns owned the two nicknames as
trademark, recognized for his punches. He had been feared in the pound
for pound divisions of boxing in an era the sport was known for its
passion and not for anything commerce, when the boxers were all proud of
what they loved to do.
On the streets of anywhere in the
boxing world and besides the heavyweights when the great Muhammad Ali
had waned with time, the pound for pound divisions produced the most
interesting and exciting bouts to note.
Promoters of all kinds emerged; including the flashy, color riot Burt Lewis who at a time managed Michael Spinks.
as it would happen, the Thomas Hearns-Roberto Duran fight on the
Cobra's way to complete his assignments against the Marvelous Marvin
Hagler, turned out a no contest. The Motor City Cobra had floored Duran
in the second round, while I predicted almost with near certainty at the
We had partied all night long for the next
day's fights. Ed, the area DJ had spinned at the newly opened Durbar
Hotel Nite Club along the Mile 2 Corridor. Reggae music had opened up a
new chapter and the DJs had taken over in lyrics and beats, with the
kind of vibes that would fill the atmosphere; a trend of the day, my
generation's finest hour, and an environment left with no choices than
go with the flow. King Yellowman's "Jamaica Nice/Take Me Home Country
Roads" had invaded every record shop in town, and every cast of that
very order had followed.
In a week every other thing had
been kept on hold save for talks and debates regarding the Hearns-Duran
fight, not even the girls being on our way, and as I have usually done,
buying every issue of the Ring magazine, boxing's premier news resource,
every soul met at my bunk to read its latest and happenings around the
boxing world. Then, I called every boxer by thier first name, from when
Jeff Chandler had dominated the Bantamweights to Larry Holmes
controlling of the Heavyweights without qualms until the Michael Spinks
scheme which had denied Holmes equaling Rocky Marciano's 49-0-0 unbeaten
It had been when boxing was entertaining and when
Cornelius Boza Edwards, Salvador Sanches, Azumah Nelson, Ejiro Murata,
John "The Beast" Mugabi, Eddie Mustafa Mohammed, Trevor Berbick, Wilfred
Benitez, Eddie Ndukwu, Mathew Said Muhammed, and several others, held
My generation -- Eugene Onyeji, Hilary Akabuilo,
Saibu Kadiri, Jimoh Kadiri, Segun Roberts, Robinson Martins, Gordy
Ekechukwu, Silas Onyeiwu, Bernard Okana, Sunday Buraimoh, Kendrx Alfado,
Fubara Peterside and others -- the youngsters of the day caught in the
"era of good feelings" and, had watched almost every Blaxploitation
movies, me in particular, had waited all week long for the Cobra's
The Cobra whose only lost had been to Sugar Ray
at "The Showdown," would meet the "no mas" guy, Duran, who had put the
Panama Canal and his country on the Atlas, was ready to fight. Duran had
bragged that if Ali and him were to be locked in a telephone booth,
that the only one to come out alive would be him and why wouldn't any
glove wearing guy fear him. The Cobra, on the other hand, had been
predicted to win, including my take at the third round.
had pledged a bash on the Cobra's win and no one could wait for that
explosive moment in the neighborhood to see we the boys celebrate
victory in grand style. It had been the talk of town.
moment, the Motor City Cobra Victory Block Party never arrived. On the
day of the fight, during the unholy hours when the city had vacated for
sleep and I had come back from a night of pub-crawling, to get some few
hours of sleep before beginning the day Las Vegas had landed a sure bet,
a knock came on my door, and when I opened, it was my cousins --
Constantine, Paul and Abel -- who had traveled with the late night
interstate transit, bringing along with them the sad news. My father had
There was nothing else that I could do. I
dressed up in my pants, a shirt and a pair of bally shoes, shuttled to
the village with my cousins who brought me the news of my father's
death. Before sunset, my father was laid to rest.