LA Story: Positively Vine Street

By Robert Ecksel on March 14, 2014
LA Story: Positively Vine Street
Actress Gina Gershon said, "Oh my god! I just hit Bob Dylan!" (Chris Farina/Top Rank)

He’s no Justin Bieber, but Bob Dylan, the exemplary old troubadour, visited Manny Pacquiao yesterday at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Los Angeles yesterday to pay his respects.

Dylan has been blandly called a “boxing fan,” which hardly begins to describe Dylan’s connection to the sport of sports.

A glance at his discography is enough to put the words “boxing fan” to shame. In 1963 he composed “Who Killed Davey Moore?” in the aftermath of the Springfield Rifle’s fatal match with Sugar Ramos. In 1966 he composed “Hurricane,” on the case of imprisoned middleweight contender Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.

But Dylan is no boxing dilettante. He has a private boxing gym in LA and has traded punches with, among others, Will Smith and Mickey Rourke.

Quentin Tarantino, the renegade director, had the privilege of going a few rounds with Dylan.

“He wanted to play hard,” recalled Tarantino, “and he nailed me with a really good one. We were sparring together, and he got one in there when I wasn’t paying attention. I think it was a right jab. I let my guard down for a minute, and he just thumped it in… It was a good punch.”

Gina Gershon, who was preparing for a movie, also climbed through the ropes to exchange with the master.

“I watched a lot of Marlon Brando, Clint Eastwood movies to get that kind of feeling of that maleness,” she said, “those who don’t show anything. I started boxing to get that distance and to get muscles. It was really wild because my boxing partner ended up being Bob Dylan! I hit him so hard and I thought, ‘Oh my god! I just hit Bob Dylan!’ and he was, ‘Oh, no, it’s okay. I need a good woman to do this every now and then.’”

To those that think Dylan only laced up gloves against showbiz types, former lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini sets the record straight.

“Bob has his own private gym,” he told’s Gordon Marino. “Best gym I’ve ever been in. On the wall there are pictures of Joe Louis, Ali, Frazier, Muddy Waters, the Rolling Stones. The heavyweights of boxing and music. First time I was over there we were sparring and just to keep him honest I would tap him with a left or right. After a couple of rounds, Bob said, ‘Hey Ray. Could you take it a little easy on the head? I have a few songs left in there.’ I was like oh no—are you kidding? Sorry. But he was only joking. He wasn’t real fast or strong but he had his own way of moving and could get it done. Afterwards, we would always sit around and talk about the fights. He really knows his boxing. He loved Benny Leonard, Carlos Monzon, both Ali and Frazier.”

If that makes Dylan a “boxing fan,” I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.

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Bob Dylan - Who Killed Davey Moore. Fight Video and Lyrics

Bob Dylan - Hurricane Lyrics

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  1. Clarence George 04:31am, 03/19/2014

    Sharon:  How can someone who calls himself Bill Sykes not be a bully and a cad?  Though I believe the name should be spelled with an “i” rather than a “y.”  Anyway, please reconsider your decision.  After all, it’s not for Sykes you’re writing, but for yourself and your fans, many of whom are of the chivalrous knight variety, pledging you their swords and fealty…“Always to do ladies, damsels, and gentlewomen succor, upon pain of death.”

  2. Kurt 03:13pm, 03/17/2014

    Sharon,  I have enjoyed reading your stories and comments on this great website.  Hope your battle goes well.  We’re in the same boat together.  Look forward to hearing from you.  Take Care

  3. Eric 11:56am, 03/17/2014

    @Sharon, Sorry to hear about your health issues. Keep your chin up. Enjoyed reading your article about Tex, Earnie, and Michael Dokes. Finding positive people in this day and age is becoming a more and more of a challenge. I’ve learned to not take criticism from others quite so seriously, and found it does wonders for my blood pressure. Hang in there.

  4. Sharon Cobb 11:41am, 03/17/2014

    Bill Sykes, You’re a bully and you are bordering on slander.  I suppose I wasn’t married to Tex Cobb or worked in national media or everything I’ve done, either, which would explain why I know so many people.  A lot of people want to hear the times I’ve spent with all of the above.

    You are accusing me of lying.  Because I don’t care to divulge my conversations with Bob Dylan doesn’t mean I don’t know him, it means I am a loyal friend.  He is fiercely private. I am not someone he was “just nice to” and met me in passing, and I will not be bullied into betraying my friend.

    You don’t know a thing about me, whom I worked with, where I worked and who I know.  And to imply I am making it up is bordering on libel and slander, something I know A LOT about between my years in the media, including 5 in national media at one of the 3 major networks, my work in music, and my time married to Tex. The only thing worse than a bully is a man who bullies a woman.

    To the rest of you, I appreciate your letters and that enjoyed my stories of the road, my marriage to Tex, and others from my years in the press and in music.  I was looking forward to sharing those stories with you.  Bullies like Bill Sykes don’t ever stop, and I am under way too much stress to deal with such a hateful, uninformed bully.

    To the regulars, you’ve been a joy to talk with, but don’t blame me for not wanting to be slandered and libeled.  You can thank Bill Sykes, whomever he is, for that.

    This is a wonderful site with an editor who works very hard to accurately inform you, and some wonderful writers.

    As for me, I won’t be writing anymore since I am dealing with cancer and other serious health problems, and need positive energy, not the likes of a Bill Sykes who is trying to assassinate my character.

  5. Bill Sykes 10:50am, 03/17/2014

    Sharon you put words in my mouth I didn’t call you racist. I said USA centric. Even then I said “seems”. I didn’t call you racist at all. The USA has many ethnic groups anyway. You can be USA centric if you like but if you are it would not make you racist anyway. If you don’t know Dylan has been travelling all over the world and think he has just been touring America on buses it would lead a rational person to think that you believe he only tours the USA on buses.
    You are clearly USA centric. I am starting to think you may not know Dylan at all. Until your last comment I believed you. Any fan knows he has been flying all over the world in the last 10 years. A friend would know that too; so I am starting to doubt your story that you are a friend of Dylan’s. I don’t believe you but I did until your last absurd comment. Everyone who follows Dylan closely knows his friends never make comments about him as you did. I am not a friend just a fan but such a fan that I know his friends don’t talk about him in the way you did
    Just to make it clear; I never called you racist as you claimed rather ridiculously. I said USA centric- which you clearly are if you think your friend Bob Dylan only travels in buses. Maybe you met him and he was nice to you. He is a really nice person. I never called anyone a racist- you clearly put those words in my mouth. Quote me where I said “racist”. I didn’t so you are just making that up.

  6. Eric 07:44am, 03/17/2014

    I was born WHITE, so according to the controlled media that automatically makes me a “wayciss.” If I say I would rather have a White Russian over a Black Russian, I am deemed a “wayciss.” All the hell with it. teehee. “Racist” was coined by Lev Bronstein aka Leon Trotksy back in the twenties to silence all opposition to the movement. That and other Marxist constructs have proved more destructive than the atomic bomb that dropped on Hiroshima. Don’t think so, Compare some of our cities like Detroit to Berlin and Hiroshima of today. Hard to figure out which side won the war.

  7. Eric 07:31am, 03/17/2014

    Dylan MAY be a talented song WRITER to many, but it is beyond me how anyone could call him a talented performer. The guy mumbles incoherently now, and even in his prime, he wasn’t a talented singer by any stretch of the imagination. Sharon mentions Willie Nelson, who has millions of fans also, while Willie is certainly a better singer than Dylan (hell, I’m probably a better singer than Dylan) I feel Willie is also vastly overrated. Willie was a very talented song writer, however. I know he wrote some Patsy Cline songs, and I love “Good Time Charlie Has Got The Blues” (think that is the title of the song.) Patsy Cline was a singer. Bob Dylan, NO WAY. Always loved Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, not so much.

  8. Sharon Cobb 07:47pm, 03/16/2014

    Bill S.
    Why are you insulting me? (“Now Sharon don’t you know that Dylan goes all over the world non-stop? You seem very USA-centric. Of course he flies. He will be in Japan in April and has just played in Scandinavia. Do you know where that is”) How dare you accuse me of being essentially racist?  I gave you an honest answer to a conversation we had…the most I could comfortably say without violating his confidences.  I can’t fly anymore and I used to fly all over the world.  I tried to go to Darfur, but had to go through Chad (Do you know where that is?) which is a 12 hour drive on back roads and my health problems wouldn’t allow it. There are many reasons people have to stop flying, and heart problems is one of them, which he was dealing with.  I am not going to say anything more about him that is personal and tolerate being called a racist and ignorant. (synonymous in my opinion)  I do not know if he went back to flying. That is an honest answer and to insult me for that is unacceptable.  Sharon Cobb.

  9. Bill Sykes 04:32pm, 03/16/2014

    I have many RS records and like them. But in 100 years they will be forgotten when the song Like a Rolling Stone will be studied in universities. Keith who is a buddy of Bob’s would I think agree with this. Dylan is a historical figure. He has changed the culture where as the Stones have only entertained it (very well I might add) A lot of people can’t see why Picasso is so great and say things like “my 5 year old could draw that” Do you really think Mick or Keith could write something as deep as “Ballad of a Thin Man” or “Hard Rain is gonna fall”?
    Dylan is a heavy weight musically. Now Sharon don’t you know that Dylan goes all over the world non-stop? You seem very USA-centric. Of course he flies. He will be in Japan in April and has just played in Scandinavia. Do you know where that is? I believe you do know him but you can’t be following him closely and that is fair enough. Good luck with your health.

  10. Eric 01:53pm, 03/16/2014

    @Sharon, Keef is a remarkable physical specimen indeed. Anyone else who had put their body through that kind of abuse would have been gone long ago. Love the Stooooooooones. “Gimme Shelter,” “Almost Hear You Sigh,” “Bitch,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” some of my favorite tunes of all time. Always thought they were at their best with Mick Taylor, however. Never cared for Bob Dylan at all. Maybe just not my type of music,  just never could see why or how he appealed to so many people.

  11. Sharon Cobb 12:19pm, 03/16/2014

    “Your name” = Sharon Cobb oy.  I need a secretary.

  12. Sharon Cobb 12:16pm, 03/16/2014

    Hi Bill S,
    That’s interesting.  I’ll ask him the next time I see him, which will have to be the next time he passes through Nashville, since due to health reasons, I can’t travel anymore. 

    I do know he loves the road, much like an 81 year old Willie Nelson, (Who has a black belt in several martial arts).

    Bob spends more time on his bus than at his home.  His home has wheels.  I mention this, because he might feel more comfortable in the States. I am speculating—-it’s nothing he said to me, but there is something he said to me that I am not sure made the news or not, so I’ll just give a short version, which is, within the last decade he had a life threatening heart problem while in Paris, and perhaps he doesn’t want to fly anymore?  I don’t know.  Do you know if he has traveled abroad in the last 10 years? If so, my theory is shot to heck.  On a personal note, although Bob is a legend, he sounds better on cd than in concert..  His concerts aren’t “sing a long with a legend” like Sir Paul McCartney concerts. Bob is a little hard to understand in concert, and doesn’t interact with his audience.  But it’s a good question, and I’ll ask him if I see him before you find out the answer.

  13. Sharon Cobb 12:03pm, 03/16/2014

    Hi Eric,
    Ironically, Keefer is in great shape at 71. He (and Mick) still jam for almost 3 hours in concert, and Keith must get his blood changed regularly, because after 30 years as a heroin junkie, still a smoker, and fell out of a tree a few years ago, he feels find and said he hadn’t had a cold in 30 years.  It has to be good genes and magic.  That said, I’ve never heard him express an interest in boxing, where Mr. Dylan has been vocal about his love of the sweet science for 40 or 50 years.  One thing that does baffle me, is Bobby doesn’t seem to understand weight class.  He’ll spar with almost any pro boxer.  I am 5’7, and when I met Bob the first time, I was taller than he and I was 130 pounds at that time, and it appeared like I weighed more.  I was helping him pick out a jacket for his show in his dressing room,(he had about a dozen hanging on the wall) and I tried one on and it was too tight.  I’m guessing he’s around 5 ft 5 inches,and maybe 120 pounds soaking wet.  Bobby is extremely private, extremely quiet, so for him to be publicly verbal about anything is unusual, and out and out crazy about boxing is no less than spectacular, if not an enigma…which is a good word to describe Bob in general.

  14. Bill Sykes 01:53am, 03/16/2014

    As a Dylan fan and a Manny fan, it is thrilling to see them both together in a photo. I am in the Philippines right now as my wife is a Filipina and I can tell you all that Manny is an absolute god here.
    I hope Manny convinces Bob to tour the Phils sometime as he has never done concerts here. He plays non English speaking places like Japan so why not here where everybody has some English? Come on Bob I can’t afford Japan and you never come to the Philippines. It’s right next door and your fans would appreciate it.

  15. Eric 09:18am, 03/15/2014

    Bob Dylan looks like 30 seconds on the heavy bag would leave him gassed. I’m sure the Mancini sparring bout was on par with Jerry Lewis’s skit with Rocky Marciano. Better opponent for Bob would have been the legendary guitar player of the Rolling Stoooooooones, Keef Riffhard. Now that would be a helluva match.

  16. Kurt 04:34am, 03/15/2014

    I heard about the Mancini - Dylan sparring session a couple years ago.  If I recall it was part of a tournament, involving megastars.  I think Mancini fought Mickey Rourke in the finals.

  17. Sharon Cobb 05:58pm, 03/14/2014

    If I may jump in and add, the notorious Mouse Strauss went to Australia with Bob to keep Bob in shape on the bags, my husband (ex) Randall “Tex” Cobb worked the bags with Bob in Philly, and Tex and became friends with Bob in the late 80s in Nashville.  Very funny stories follow, which will be my next story if y’all are Dylan fans and Bob wants it.

    Bob has remained friends with both my ex and me to this day.

  18. Robert Ecksel 05:41pm, 03/14/2014

    I can’t swear to it, but I imagine Paul Thorn would pull his punches, in deference to the D Spot.

  19. peter 04:22pm, 03/14/2014

    I’d like to see Dylan get in the ring with blues and rock singer, Paul Thorn. Thorn was a pro fighter who lost to Roberto Duran (TKO 6) in 1988. He has recorded seven albums and has enjoyed national TV performance appearances on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel Live!

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