James 'Cobby' Collins, Baltimore fighter, dies


Gloria Fiebel of Dundalk and Jeannette Burton of Baltimore, two surviving sisters of South Baltimore boxer James L. "Cobby" Collins Jr., were incorrectly identified in an obituary that appeared in yesterday's editions of The Sun.

The Sun regrets the error.

James L. "Cobby" Collins Jr., 68, a South Baltimore fighter who was inducted into the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame in 1982, died of liver disease Thursday at St. Agnes Hospital.

Services for Mr. Collins were held yesterday at the Maryland Veterans Cemetery in Crownsville.

Mr. Collins began his career punching a bag in the back room of Jack Portney's pool hall, then located at Light and West streets in South Baltimore. He fought 35 amateur fights on the local circuit and won the Hearst Diamond Belt in 1938.

Measuring 5-foot-3 and weighing about 150 pounds, Mr. Collins fought as a welterweight. He began boxing professionally in 1939 and was best known for knocking out Tommy Ray in the third round at old Carlin's Park.

Matches featuring the black-haired Irishman drew crowds of South Baltimoreans to local fight halls, including the old Coliseum on Monroe Street. He fought 11 professional matches in Baltimore.

Mr. Collins' keenest rival during his career was Booby Woods, another South Baltimore favorite, whom he beat three out of four times. The two were good friends outside of the ring, but promoters featured them in grudge matches based on a fictitious love triangle.

Serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, Mr. Collins fought United Service Organizations tournaments and was knocked out of the ring into the audience during one match. The incident marked the downfall of his career in boxing, said a longtime friend, Ray H. Leonard.

"Jimmy was never the same after he came out of the Army," Mr. Leonard said. "Oh, but he was a top-notch fighter in his day. . . . He was very, very good. Everybody liked Jimmy."

For a while, Mr. Collins was a sparring partner for the late Harry Jeffra -- a locally renowned boxing champion and promoter who knocked out Mr. Collins in a 10-round bout. Mr. Collins continued fighting until 1948, when he hung up his gloves after being knocked out by a younger and quicker opponent in the first round.

After six years of professional bouts, his final record was 23 wins (five of them knockouts), 15 losses and two draws, according to the State Athletic Commission.

After stepping out of the ring, he worked 25 years as a truck driver for the Maryland Cup Co. and retired in 1987.

Mr. Collins remained a boxing enthusiast and a member of the Ring 101 boxing organization. He was born in Cambridge but held strong ties to the South Baltimore community of Pigtown, where he grew up and was revered in his boxing heyday.

Mr. Collins' survivors include his wife of 37 years, the former Lillian E. Currans; a stepdaughter, Mary Campbell, and two stepsons, Arnett and Vincent Campbell, all of Baltimore; two brothers, Walter Collins of Middle River and William Collins of Baltimore; four sisters, Louise Ledmun, Anna Cohen and Virginia Collins, all of Baltimore, and Jeannette Fiebel of Dundalk; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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