Blair Cobbs knows a thing or two about perseverance.
The unbeaten 30-year-old (14-0-1, 9 KOs) has faced the kind of trials and tribulations that would make Hollywood sit up and take notice, but a two-hour film wouldn’t be enough time to tell the whole story.
The passing of his mother and grandmother early on in his life, learning how to box in Mexico while his father was on the run from the FBI, homelessness, finding God, nearly being in a plane crash twice, believing he had no reason to live and being declared dead would require a 12-part series on Netflix.
Then there is the boxing career of the American welterweight nicknamed “The Flair”. In his last two fights against Carlos Cervantes and Samuel Kotey Cobbs has been down on the floor once and forced to see out a split decision victory giving a performance that was less flair and more fair. Given what has transpired in his life prior to fighting at the likes of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas it’s safe to say that nothing in a boxing ring fazes the Golden Boy Promotions fighter.
“It was a good learning experience,” Cobbs said when asked about his performance against Kotey.
“These are the types of fights we have to sacrifice to get to an elite level. This fight we went a full ten rounds. Without these types of fights you have a less seasoned Blair “The Flair” so we have to make sure we take certain fights that can season us and get us ready for the elite level. We’re going after the best in boxing.”
Given his lack of experience Cobbs is still at a learning stage in his career where he aims to take the negatives from his last performance and turn them into a positive moving forward.
“In my next fight I’ll be focused on single punch knockout weapons,” he says. “For the other fights I was focused more on that and got knockouts. This time [against Kotey] I focused more so on technique, moving and boxing and getting around and beating the opponent with footwork, and his inability to cut me off in the ring, and that’s exactly what I did. In spots I was still trying to get him out [of there]. I was still able to do what we planned and trained for in the fight.”
Cobbs, whose nickname “The Flair”, is becoming more and more of a homage to legendary WWE wrestler Ric Flair, particularly every time he gives a “woo” during an interview, sees himself as the next in line to claim the 147lbs throne from the division’s leading boxers like Terence Crawford and Errol Spence Jr.
Whether he achieves that or not remains to be seen but his persona and showmanship will give him a great shot at an opportunity in the spotlight if he continues to talk the talk and remain unbeaten.
“I’m pretty much the complete package,” he boasts when answering if he thinks he is indeed that. “The reincarnation of every great fighter. There’s a lot of good fighters out there right now in Errol Spence and Terence Crawford but the great fighters are more than just boxers. Muhammad Ali transcended the sport of boxing, that’s what I’ve chosen to be, a reincarnation of a Muhammad Ali. A person that is not only a good technical boxer and that can do wonderful things in the ring but a great fighter, a great sportsman and a great entertainer outside the ring. I have a lot of boos and a lot of woos, and in most cases in fights they start off as boos and I turn the boos into woos. Inside and outside the ring you see nothing but action and I bring this power of charisma with me everywhere I go and it’s been one heck of a rollercoaster.”
The rollercoaster had a big dip when his father Eugene took his teenage son and daughter to Mexico in 2004. This came after Eugene had crashed a plane in Ohio leaving behind pounds of cocaine worth millions of dollars.
A manhunt led U.S Marshals to Mexico and eventually Eugene was arrested in 2008. Blair describes the relationship he has with his father as “wonderful” and is firmly of the belief that we all make mistakes, and whether punished or not, a second chance is deserved.
“He was young at the time,” he says. “I’m a man now and I make my mistakes. I’ve certainly made my own mistakes and so it’s all about forgiveness and it’s all about moving forward in life. So my relationship with my father is a really, really positive relationship. He respects me for what I’ve accomplished, and what I’ve persevered through, and I’m very proud to make him proud and be a better man for my father.”
Blair clarified that he was not on the plane that crashed in Ohio but without skipping a beat he began laughing at the funny stories of the skies that popped into his head. Memories which involved he and his father almost crashing the same plane twice. Laughter filled Cobbs’ side of the phone when he recalled the incidents, perhaps proving that only survivors of a near miss can laugh at such an ordeal.
The first one began near Las Vegas one weekend, when he was 14.
“I’m listening to Aerosmith on my noise cancelling headphones,” he begins. “We’re on auto-pilot and we’re just flying. One of the propellers stopped working on my side and I’m just bopping and listening. I’m in the cockpit with him and I look over, and I see that the propeller is not moving and I’m like oh man, oh boy! This is a bad day. This can’t be good because I don’t remember this happening on the flight simulator! I turned around and tapped Dad on the shoulder and he was asleep. We were just cruising at altitude. I’m pretty much the one that’s flying. He’s sleeping and I wake him up and he says,”What’s going on?” I’m like oh man I’ve got bad news so I say “See this propeller right here? This propeller right here on my side ain’t working”. He’s like oh no, oh god. I’m looking at my map, we don’t have the technical kind of stuff, we don’t have Google maps on our phone. We’re falling. We’re definitely falling and then that propeller finally stopped, completely stopped. We’re falling. We’re going down slowly and just luckily my father had found an airport and landed. Heaven sent us a miracle. That was hilarious. As we were falling he was like I love you man, I love you. I love you man, we’re going to be okay and I’m like yeah Dad I know we’re gonna die (laughs). I’m like, dang man I never had a girlfriend. Not one, dang. Thinking of all the girlfriends I never had. I’m like dang man, I’m gonna die a virgin.”
Cobbs was trying to get his own pilot’s licence at the time, practicing as much as he could in an aircraft simulator. This was Cobbs’ idea of normality.
“I got another story,” he adds.
“Me and my father were flying to this little island just off of California. I think it was Catalina Island and there were mountains. We were flying, everything was good, we had dinner and as we were flying out my father thought it was a great idea to fly between the mountains. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m like yeah that’d be cool if we can get a good view of the beach and boy did we get a good view of that beach (laughs)! We were flying down and as we were in between the mountains there was turbulence pushing really hard on both sides of the aeroplane and the aeroplane was tipping over and we both had to hold the wheel to try and hold the aeroplane steady and we nearly flipped, we were nearly vertical. One wing was pointing straight down and the other wing was pointing straight up and this isn’t one of those flip around aeroplanes. If the aeroplane flips, it’s over. As the plane was going through the mountains we were falling because we had nothing to hold us up and we were falling down towards the beach (laughs) and we were trying to hold the aeroplane to balance ourselves out and just before we hit the beach we cleared all that turbulence in between the mountains and turned the aeroplane up, straight and just in the nick of time before we hit the beach. We would have had a really good view of that beach. At that particular time it was funny. That was another time we almost died.”
Everyday life for Cobbs was rarely normal. Wherever he went from the heat of Mexico to the streets of Philadelphia Cobbs was embarking on a life of close calls. A degree of normality can be heard in his and many other fighter’s words when they talk of a time, where, if they hadn’t found boxing they may well be dead. In Mexico Cobbs didn’t have anything to do but box. However he wanted to train with the professionals and while he wouldn’t have been able to prove to be their equal in a boxing ring he was determined to show his worth during a run one baking hot day.
“One time I ran up a mountain (laughs) and it was a big mountain. It took me all day. Started running in the morning and didn’t get back till the sun was down and I remember it being so hot. My first time I had the plastics on, like a sauna suit. The only thing under it was some raggedy boxers (laughs) and it got so hot as I was running up this mountain. I realised I was sweating too much and if I was to continue I was going to die. So in the midst of running I had to stop for a quick second and rip all of my plastics off (laughs) and I was running up the mountain butt-naked with just the loosest wet boxers. I was practically naked. And at the top of the mountain there was nothing up there except random stuff like a wild chicken, wild animals just walking around because it’s like a habitat area. There were no people, there’s just wild animals walking around (laughs). It took a long time and thank God it was all downhill when I got to the top because it took all day to get back. It was funny. Man, I almost died there.”
In between the tales of hilarity, from what feels like another world, there is a serious side to Cobbs. The key to his survival has been perseverance, a word he used on numerous occasions during the interview. After leaving America for Mexico the name of Blair Cobbs appeared to have been wiped from history. He had been pronounced dead. Cobbs has no idea who signed him off but his memory of coming back to his homeland was one of feeling like an illegal immigrant.
“It was a pretty surreal moment and when I got to America. It was like a brand new place. I was like oh my god look at these streets, look at all this stuff. I’m in America and I’m actually listening to people speak English. It was almost like I didn’t believe I was there,” he said.
Unsurprisingly people find the life of Blair Cobbs hard to believe, he finds it hard to believe himself. Surreal doesn’t begin to describe it. Despite his braggadocio Flair remains humble. “The Flair” is a character, one that draws people into the wild story of a man who looks like a cross between Jimi Hendrix and Prince.
A three-year hiatus in his career between 2014 and 2017 was the result of his performances scaring the opposition away, he believes. A lefty, strong, awkward and unpredictable didn’t exactly have him at the top of matchmaker’s lists. It was a dark period for Cobbs. No hilarious tales or reason to laugh this time. He chose to find God and learn more about faith to lead him through another troublesome time in his life.
“I definitely found myself giving up multiple times or at least wanting to give up and I persevered through those hard times, those very, very dark cold nights. That particular time period I was going through a lot; homelessness, everything, you name it I went through it.”
Then came an opportunity to learn under legendary Philadelphian Bernard Hopkins. The one-time undisputed middleweight champion of the world could give Cobbs a road into Golden Boy Promotions thanks to his business partnership with Oscar De La Hoya, but Cobbs had to make people believe in him after a conversation with B-Hop.
“He trained me a little bit and he gave me the knowledge and the understanding that no matter what, I cannot give up on myself. He told me to get a few fights, make people believe and he’ll give me an opportunity to box for Golden Boy and I left Philadelphia with that exact thing in mind. I left on a whim, faith alone and God showed me the way. I got in touch with a very good manager, a person who was willing to give me an opportunity and shortly after that I became the  Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame prospect of the year and I got the opportunity to fight under Golden Boy. I always told myself if I had just one opportunity I would seize the opportunity to the fullest and that’s what I’ve done.
“It’s only when you have nothing that you’re free to do anything and that’s when I chose to fight. It was like either I’m going to win or I’m going to die and I still have that mindset even to this day. And when I get knocked down I always get back up. I always believe in myself.”