CORA AND DORA, THE . . . TWO-FISTED TWINS : From Ft. Lauderdale to Reseda, This One-Two Combination Has Taken Its Punches and LandedFeet-First in a Sport Reserved Mostly for Men

Times Staff Writer

They would seem to be a fight promoter's dream. Identical twins. One trained by the other, a black belt in karate, in the "art" of boxing--that's what they call it--to become a world champion after only two bouts.

Both unbeaten, although they've fought only 11 times between them. One, described as a "bull," a no-frills puncher. The other, drawing on the experience of 10 years in the ring, a skilled technician and more highly regarded boxer. Hardened by a tumultuous childhood that led one of them to run away at age 15 and both to quit school before the 10th grade.

And both women.

Dedicated to their craft, too.

Cora Long and Dora Webber are not a novelty act. The 26-year-old twins, who have been fighters all their lives, take their boxing seriously.

Before Cora's first professional bout--she fights at 128 pounds--her husband and her 190-pound male sparring partner conspired to see if she could "take a punch."

As she and her sparring partner went out to the middle of the ring for the traditional tapping of hands to start the match, her opponent reared back and punched her square on the left eye.

"I felt my feet sink into the floor," Cora said, "but I never fell."

They didn't tell her for several days that they had set up the whole thing, and Cora walked around for weeks with a black eye.

"They wanted to see if I could really handle it," she said. "Before I went into the ring and got myself killed, they wanted to test me."

Despite the daily reminder of what a punch could do to her, Cora said she never had any second thoughts about going into boxing.

"It didn't hurt me," she said. "You should have seen him. . . .

"Believe me, nobody's going to beat this chick. Nobody's going to hurt me. Not after what I've been through when I was little."

The twins grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the fourth and fifth of six children born to truck driver Bobby Wayne Webber and his wife, Caroline, a waitress who said she supported the family financially when her husband walked out.

Caroline said her husband was gone, off and on, for 15 years. They were divorced once but remarried. Their second divorce, she said, will become final later this year.

Cora and Dora were tomboys. Their three brothers, needing bodies to fill out teams, got them involved in sports at an early age.

"We always played everything the guys did," Cora said.

But it was not a carefree childhood. Said their mother: "I wouldn't say any single one of my kids was happy at home." Caroline Webber worked 14 hours a day to support the family. Her husband wasn't around much, but when he was, he was usually drunk and was physically and verbally abusive toward her, she said.

During the divorce proceedings, she testified in court that she had been "beaten on numerous occasions and habitually frightened and threatened" by her husband.

Three times, she said, she tried to kill herself by taking tranquilizers. Twice, she threw herself from a moving car.

"I wanted to die," she said. "I just wanted to get away from him."

She doesn't know where he is living now, she said, and hasn't seen him in several years.

Said Cora: "We had it as rough as any of them guy fighters from the ghetto who were getting beat up all the time. We had the same stuff, the same thing."

The twins took up karate to protect themselves.

Finally, in the summer after her freshman year of high school, Cora ran away with Jeff Long, a 31-year-old karate instructor.

She had beaten up a city councilman's daughter, she said, and police were threatening to try her as an adult for assault and battery. "So I split," she said.

She and Long stopped in Tempe, Ariz., for a few months, found it too hot and dry and continued on to Los Angeles. Six years later, on Cora's 21st birthday, they were married. They live today in a motor home that is usually parked near the beach in Santa Monica.

Meanwhile, Dora was still in Ft. Lauderdale, getting into trouble of her own. She, too, quit school in the summer before her sophomore year, taking a job in a grocery store so she could help pay the bills.

Because she wasn't in school, she said, "I was getting into trouble and mischief and carrying on. Just going crazy. All the girls, I was just kind of their leader. Wherever I went, they went. I was always getting into fights."

She said she spent two weeks in a women's rehabilitation center once after wrecking a girlfriend's car; she had borrowed it when her girlfriend's mother was out of town. Afraid of the consequences, the girls reported the car stolen. Several people, however, had seen Dora driving it, so the police picked her up.

Eventually, Cora sent for her, mailing her a one-way ticket to Los Angeles. She hooked up with Raymond Cole, an electrician she had met at a nightclub in Florida, and they now live in a rented house in Reseda with Dora's mother and their two sons, 2 1/2-year-old Raven Lee and 1-year-old Travis Lee.

Cora, ever active, had continued her karate training in California, working out on the beach with her husband and earning black belts in Chinese kempo and Japanese goju-ryu. She also took up surfing. The karate led to kick boxing, and one day a trainer told her she could make some money in boxing.

For one bout, she made $800 for 16 minutes in the ring. Another night, she made $500.

It was easy money, and she got hooked on the sport.

"It's an art," she said. "I think it's beautiful. I can do it well because I'm very athletic. It's a natural talent. And I just love it. It makes you think. It teaches you self-discipline. . . . And it always kept my weight down."

Believing her sister would do well in the sport, too, and needing a sparring partner, Cora sent for Dora in Florida.

Her sister trained her, Dora said, "until I just got tired of her kicking my butt because I didn't know what I was doing."

Cora introduced her to Archie Grant, who still trains them both.

And Dora, too, took to the sport.

"It feels good when you do what you're taught and it all comes out right," she said. "You make people miss and make them pay for missing. . . .

"Boxing gave me two healthy boys. Got me in excellent shape. I had no problems delivering my sons at all--no pain. It keeps me in shape. I'm able to keep up with my kids, work eight hours a day, clean the house, do the laundry."

They certainly aren't in it for the money. Dora was paid only $1,000 last August for winning the lightweight championship of something called the International Women's Boxing Assn. That made her record 2-0. She hasn't fought since, although Grant said he hopes to line up fights next month in Southern California for both Dora and Cora.

Cora is unbeaten with a draw in nine bouts, but hasn't fought since June 10, 1982. She said a promoter wanted her to fight at 140 pounds, but with summer approaching, she didn't want to put on the weight.

The twins say they haven't fought much because other women, after seeing them work out, back out of scheduled bouts. Grant said Dora's 15-round decision over Jackie Holley last summer in Pensacola, Fla., "almost eliminated her possibility of opportunities."

But Don Fraser, who has been promoting fights in Southern California for 30 years, said women's boxing simply has not caught on.

"They just don't bring in people," he said. "The crowd doesn't seem to go for it. I think they just don't like the women hitting each other."

Also, Fraser said, "One of the thrills of boxing is a knockdown or a knockout. And you seldom see that in women's boxing because they just don't have the power."

Johnny Dubliss, who promotes women's fights, said there are about 200 women boxers in the United States. He blames the twins' inability to secure bouts on the inaccessibility of Vern Stevenson, director, founder and the only member of the International Women's Boxing Assn., with whom the twins have signed a contract.

"Stevenson tells anybody who wants the twins to fight has to go through him," Dubliss said, "and it's impossible to get in touch with him."

A reporter's call to the Tulsa, Okla., phone number listed on Stevenson's business card was answered by a man who told the caller, "We haven't seen hide nor hair of Vern Stevenson in several weeks."

But, Dora said, "We'll fight for anybody, anytime."

She and Cora plan to send videotapes of themselves to promoters.

Physically, there is nothing particularly intimidating about the twins. Earlier this year, when she appeared on the television show "What's My Line?" in Tokyo, Dora had stumped the panel until the last contestant finally guessed that she was a boxer.

They are 5-4, and both wear their hair closely cropped. Dora weighs 135 pounds; Cora weighs 128. Both work full-time bagging groceries. They are open, warm and friendly, and smile easily. Grant calls them "very lovable people" and says they have made his life "a little better. I'm proud to be involved with them. . . . If all people were like them, there would be no hate in the world."

They've also changed his attitude about women.

"I had to first teach myself that women are a part of life," he said, laughing, "and not just something, you know, to enjoy."

Recalling the first time he saw Cora in the ring, Grant said: "Being macho, I couldn't believe what I was looking at. I'd never seen a girl fight like her before. I told her she made a lot of beautiful moves that I wished I could make my guys make."

Because their schedules conflict and because no other women train at the Los Angeles Youth Athletic Club in Lincoln Heights, the twins usually spar with men.

Featherweight Gustavo Lopez, a veteran of 15 professional bouts, said Dora takes a body punch as well as anybody he's ever fought.

"At first, I was taking it easy," Lopez said of his initial workouts with Dora, "but when she kept coming at me--the more you hit her, the more she comes at you--then I figured, it's one-on-one. . . .

"She doesn't hit as hard as a man, but she throws more punches, more often."

Said Cesar Perez, Lopez' trainer: "He fights a lot of men here and once he starts hitting them in the stomach, they quit. She takes it. I don't know what it is. In fact, we're puzzled because she takes a better punch to the stomach than the men. And it should be the other way around."

Grant said everybody who steps into the ring with the twins ends up respecting their ability.

"Boxing is not a gender sport," Grant said. "When you were a kid, your mother hit you with a spanking and you felt it just as well as when your father hit you, didn't you? Well, it's the same thing. A punch is a punch. It doesn't care who throws it.

"A woman can throw a (powerful) punch if she applies the principle that it's going to be just as effective as if a man threw it. Dora has 135 pounds and she can hit equally as well as any male 135-pounder. And her block isn't a feminine block; it isn't a masculine block. It's a block. "

That's debatable, but there's no debating the twins' dedication.

Cora is angling for a promotion at work and frustrated about the lack of available fights, so she hasn't been to the gym in about 10 weeks. But she runs six miles a day, works out with her husband and surfs several times a week.

Dora goes to the gym six days a week. On a typical day, she wakes up at 5 a.m. and runs four to seven miles. Then she does the laundry before gathering up Raven and Travis for the 45-minute drive to the gym. She works out for two hours, drives home and goes to work for eight hours until 11 p.m. When she gets home, she studies boxing videos for about an hour before going to bed.

What motivates them?

Cole thinks it has something to do with self-esteem.

"Both girls are the best in the world at what they do," Cole said. "That's not an easy statement for anyone to make."

Their mother says boxing is "the best thing in the world for them. They get all the anger and everything out of their system by fighting. It's good therapy."

Caroline Webber said she enjoys watching her daughters box.

"I used to follow boxers when I was a little girl--like Joe Louis and Jack Dempsey and Rocky Graciano and Rocky Marciano. When Rocky Marciano died, I was working in a Howard Johnson restaurant and the Broward County (Fla.) Sherrif Department went to his funeral. I swear to God, I have never seen anything so beautiful in my whole, entire life. It was the most fantastic thing I ever saw. All the police cars went to his funeral. That's quite an honor."

The twins aren't asking for a parade. All they want are fights.

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