An Olympic acquaintance: Following the career of boxer Duane Bobick
By Marv Kohlbeck
A dentist’s hands are known as the “tools of his trade,” and so are the fingers of a musician, a good cook, or the arms and hands of a boxer.
Consider Duane Bobick of Bowlus, Minnesota. He won a gold medal at the Pan American Games in 1971 and competed in the 1972 Olympics in Munich. It was by chance that I got to know him as he used to date my wife’s sister. Hence, we followed him in the early stages of his boxing career.
Coming from a large family in which Bobick was one of 11 boys and one girl, the boys fought among themselves or were protective of their only sister. Actually, it was not until Bobick enlisted in the Navy that he became interested in boxing. In due time, he represented the Navy in challenging bouts. His success continued in civilian life. Records show that he emerged as the “Great White Hope” following his success as an amateur with a record of 93-13.
In 1973 he turned pro. Former heavyweight champ Joe Frazier became his manager, and Eddie Futch was his trainer. My pregnant wife and I met them at one of Bobick’s matches in Minneapolis, and Frazier tapped my wife on the tummy and said, “You’ve got a boxer in there.” A Frazier autographed boxing glove in my “man cave” brings back those memories and more.
One side of Bobick’s confidence or cockiness was revealed to us prior to one of his matches when we were told that he always had a sympathy card sent to his opponent’s dressing room prior to their bout.
Our following of his progress reached a climax in May of 1977 when we received four free tickets to Bobick’s upcoming bout with Ken Norton in Madison Square Garden in New York. Bobick was no longer dating my wife’s sister, but we remained good friends with the family. We joined many of them at the prefight celebration in downtown Manhattan.
Sitting in the 16th row on the ground floor, we waited in anticipation for the match to begin. Behind us were Hollywood movie star Chevy Chase and Pulitzer Prize author Norman Mailer. In conversation I was able to obtain their autographs on my program.
The fight did not last long. An unfortunate punch by Norton to Bobick’s neck and Adam’s apple temporarily cut off his breathing, and 58 seconds into the first round the fight ended.
A budding career wilted as a result of that fight and greatly diminished the anticipated future success of a country boy who had been labeled the future “Great White Hope” in boxing circles. Bobick entered the ring 13 more times, winning 10 and losing three. His boxing career ended in 1979 after compiling an amateur record of 93-13 and a pro boxing record of 48 wins and 4 losses.
Now, at age 66, Bobick suffers from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. He has been quoted as saying, “I’m not sure I would have gone into boxing back then if I would have known all the effects of head trauma that I know today, but I don’t regret the experience, intense training, and discipline I learned from the sport.”
Bobick, Frazier, and Futch had visions of reaching the promised land of big money with a win over Norton, but one glancing blow brought them back to the reality of pitfalls that can change a person’s life.