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Saturday, 5th July 2008
Dec 98

Archie Moore died Dec 1998 at the age of 84. A man that held the light-heavyweight title for a decade he uniquely fought both Rocky Marciano and Cassius Clay. It is also a fact he knocked out 141 opponents, a record in the sport and perhaps one that will stand forever, although that is a long time. It also gives me a chance to dive into a huge pile of old Boxing News magazines I have collected for some reason and mention the fact his face appeared on a card issued by this publication.

Born Dec 13, 1913, Benoit, Mississippi, (he died a few days short of his 85 birthday) he was named Archibald Lee Wright. His parents separated when he was a baby and was subsequently brought up by an uncle rejoicing in the name of Cleveland Moore.

he acted as trainer to both Foreman and Ali

His up-bringing was like a Hollywood account of a boxers troubled past. Growing up in St. Louis he was involved with street gangs and soon in trouble with the law. For some reason he bought a set of boxing gloves from the proceeds of a theft of two oil lamps.

At 14 he was in reform school where he spent the next three years. He emerged with a determination to become a boxer.

In 1936 he was fighting as a middle-weight and was to win the next 12 bouts by knock-out.

In 1940 he was touring Australia and he won all seven of his bouts whilst over there. It was also the place he claimed to have been taught a method of losing weight by the Aborigines. This was useful as he was always having trouble making his fighting weight of 12 st 7 lb. His secret was closely guarded but in his autobiography, The Archie Moore Story (1960) he revealed it involved chewing but not swallowing meat thereby extracting no more than the juices. With that sort of dedication anyone could shed a few pounds I would think.

By 1941 he was the fourth ranked middle weight in the world when something of a disaster struck. He went into hospital for an operation on an ulcer but complications set in and he fell into a coma for five days contracting peritonitis and pneumonia.

He left hospital weighing 7 stone and looking like he had aged a decade in the process.

However even in an industry of people famed for their fitness regimes Archie Moore was something of a legend. He got himself back to fitness in a most determined manner. It included walking on his hands for hours on end and 250 press-ups a day.

Despite this set back he recovered and had his first championship shot at the age of 39. This late age was more to do with the fact other fighters feared the man. A ringwise boxer with a tremendous punch and inability to give-up has never been the most popular of opponents.

His title shot came about probably as a direct result of writing to 427 American sports journalists explaining that Jey Maxim, the light-heavyweight champion of the day was refusing to fight him. To make the challenge all the more impossible to avoid he offered to fight Maxim for a purse of one dollar.

In 1952 Maxin entered the ring, with Moore in his customary knee-length shorts, and battle commenced. The fight was both bloody and brutal and not the sort of fight that would get to a decision in todays climate but that is what happened and Moore won unanimously.

In 1955 Moore decided to step up a weight. Quite how sensible this was when it meant stepping into the ring with Rocky Marciano is something history has decided. At the time though despite Rocky being absolutely fearsome he was more like a light-heavyweight himself so it probably made some sort of sense to a boxer.

There was also the fact Rocky was ten years younger than Moore.

Moore got off to a good start and Rocky found himself on the canvas for a count of 4 in the second round. However it was not to be and a tired Moore had run out of fight by round 8. The ref. wished to stop the fight in this round but Moore refused on the grounds that the only was a champion would leave the ring was victorious or carried out. In round nine he was carried out.

In 1956 Moore (age 42) had a second go at claiming boxing's greatest prize. This time he got into the ring with a 21 year old Floyd Patterson. One of the names which can send a chill down any boxing fans spine. It was for the title Rocky Marciano had vacated. Moore lost the fight in the 5th round.

Moore was to defend the light-middleweight title 8 times. His greatest challenge came from the Canadian Yvon Durelle in 1958. Moore found himself on the seat of his pants 4 times, three times in a very shaky first round. The fight lasted till the 11th round by which time it was Durelle on the business end of the fistic fury. When Durelle sank to the canvas in the 11th it was Moore's 127th K.O blow which was the new record. This was a major contribution to him being awarded the fighter of the year award.

In 1962 Moore was actually stripped of his title amid all manner of unseemly wrangling amongst competing boxing associations which had been simmering for quite some time. It did mean that he beat the prediction of Boxing News when they reported in 1960, 'So 1961 looks like being a busy year for Ol' Moore, And it may be his last as champ.' Which was at the end of their report of his points defeat against the Italian, Giulio Rinaldi (Nov 1960) SHOCK FOR MOORE screamed the headline of that edition. 1962 was the year Moore was to step into the ring with a young Cassius Clay. This fight lasted only 4 rounds, Clay victorious.

Moore's next fight was his last fight, Mike DiBase a victory for Moore who was just short of his 50th year.

After his retirement he acted as trainer to both Foreman and Ali and also took several film roles. In the 1960 production of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn he played the slave Jim.

Hopefully Moore will be remembered as much for his honesty within the sport of boxing as anything else. He never took a dive in an age when taking a dive was integral to boxing and would not be disrespectful to fellow boxers in or out of the ring.

Recently the journal Boxing News voted him pound for pound the 9th best boxer of all time.