BEFORE THERE WAS ALI, THERE WAS MOORE (Newark Star-Ledger, Thursday, Dec. 10, 1998) By Jerry Izenberg Archie Moore died out in San Diego last night at age 84. Somehow, you'd have to think if anyone could have conned Death into a rematch, that guy would have to be Old Archie. For 28 years -- in and out of the ring -- he outfought, out-talked and outmaneuvered more people than Bill Clinton's legal staff. This is a guy who fought 215 or 220 or 228 times over 28 years and won 183 -- we think. It could be 185, 187 or it could be 194. There is no way to truly know. This is a guy who knocked out 129 or 135 or 145 opponents -- unless somebody runs in with more newspaper clippings from Australia or Brazil or who knows where else before you finish reading this. If you didn't know there really was an Archie Moore, you would think Muhammad Ali had invented him. But then, of course, the one thing we do know is that even before there was Muhammad Ali, there was Archie Moore. And what Muhammad perfected, Archie began -- inside and outside of the ring. He could con a crowd out of its wallets and into an arena and, once inside, he could con a guy who could throw bombs with either hand out of a decision. For 28 years he made an incredible journey through boxing, starting in 1935 with anonymous transients like Piano Man Jones and the Pocahontas Kid (he knocked each out in two rounds in Hot Springs, Ark.,) and quickly moving up to fight the kind of bomb-throwers nobody else would because they didn't have to fight them. And to go where the money was -- or what little was available to him -- he moved through the ranks with the middleweights and back and forth between the light heavies and the heavyweights as though his thyroid were attached to a yo-yo. They called him The Mongoose. It was a nickname straight out of Central Casting. For every cobra, there waits a mongoose. For every favorite, there was Archie Moore. We are talking about a guy here whose early opponents incredibly included punchers from hell like Jimmy Bivins, Curtis Sheppard, Holman Williams and Ezzard Charles. The longer he stood up, the further he had to go to prove himself. This is a guy whose career took him to places like Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Germany, Italy and even Tasmania in the Australian Outback. Various record books insist he retired at 48, 49 or 50. But then it more likely, things being what they were at the time in Benoit, Miss., his birth certificate was carved in a tree and somebody came around later for firewood. Like Ali, Archie never really needed a promoter. All he ever needed was a ring. His prefight hyperbole could turn opponents, whose relatives wouldn't even pay to see them fight, into the prototypes of the Beast that Swallowed Wyoming. He was so good he could win but keep it close enough to sell a rematch even before the first fight was over. In 1958, he went up to Canada and defended his light heavyweight title against a Quebec fisherman named Yvon Durelle. It was one of the wildest light heavy fights in history. There were eight knockdowns -- four by each fighter. When it ended in the 11th, when Durelle couldn't get up, Archie ran to the other corner, threw his arms around Durelle, whom he knew could punch but couldn't fight, and whispered in his ear: "You listen to me, young man. You promise me that you won't go anywhere near a ring for a year even if somebody puts a gun in your ear and I promise you I will make you more money than you ever dreamed you'd see." Durelle paid attention. He didn't fight for a year, therefore, nobody could knock him out. Archie waited for him, keeping busy with just one fight, a non-title match against a fellow named Sterling Davis, who was a household name if you happened to live in the Davis household. True to his word, Archie sold out the arena in Canada for the rematch. True to himself, he stopped Durelle in the third. The last time he fought as a light heavy, it was in yet another rematch he had engineered. In 1960, he went to Italy to fight another non-title match against a fellow named Giulio Rinaldi. Archie was overweight, untrained and totally disinterested. Rinaldi won a decision. "Now," Archie told him as he had Durelle, "you behave yourself. Stay away from dangerous fighters and runaway taxicabs and we will make some money." A year later, at a press conference in New York, Archie told us: "I didn't mind losing to that boy. But the people were all excited in his home town and they kept ringing the church bells all night. They kept me away all night and I'm gonna take it out on him." Nobody bothered to point out that the arena and Rinaldi's home town were 90 miles apart. Archie packed the Garden. Archie knocked him out early. At age 42, he went nine rounds with Rocky Marciano, dropping him before losing. Seven years later, he fought young (soon-to-be-Muhammad Ali) Cassius Clay. He was the only man to fight them both. Later, he worked with kids and helped train fighters, including George Foreman in Zaire. His mystique never faded. He wouldn't let it. I remember that when he did work a corner, he always arrived with a wicker picnic basket instead of a gym bag. "What's in the basket?" I remember I once asked him. He smiled, lowered his voice and whispered: "Mojo." Who would dare to doubt him? MOORE FOUGHT 22 MAINS IN BALTIMORE (Baltimore Sun, Thursday, Dec. 10, 1998) By Alan Goldstein Archie Moore fought in 22 main events in Baltimore, winning all but one -- a 10-rounder to Holman Williams on Oct. 22, 1945, a loss he avenged a month later by stopping Williams in the 11th round. Among the tougher light heavyweights he fought at the old Coliseum on Monroe Street were Williams, Jimmy Bivins, Lloyd Marshall, Cocoa Kid, Curtis "Hatchet Man" Sheppard and Bert Lytell. "They weren't big-money fights, so I learned to be frugal," he said. "I always planned to arrive in Baltimore the day of the fight and leave on the 11.05 p.m. train out of Baltimore to New York where I was living at the time." Moore recalled his one appearance at Municipal Stadium on 33rd Street, on June 26, 1952, against Clarence Henry. "It was the night after Ray Robinson fought Joey Maxim at Yankee Stadium and collapsed in the heat," he recalled. "Well, believe me, it was even hotter in Baltimore that night. Henry kept sucking oxygen between rounds. I was still bouncing on my toes after 10 rounds. I was always cool and calculating." He staged his last Baltimore fight Oct. 23, 1961, while approaching his 48th birthday. He floored Pete Rademacher eight times on the way to a sixth-round knockout. THE EXPERT TOUCH OF BOXING'S DIPLOMAT (The Independent, London, Dec. 10, 1998) Ken Jones looks at the colourful life of a resilient fighter who could talk as fast as he punched. When Archie Moore arrived here in May 1956 to defend the undisputed light- heavyweight championship against Yolande Pompey bets were foolishly struck on the basis of his corpulence. Getting together with Moore at his training quarters in Windsor, boxing writers of the time asked how he could possibly make the 12st 7lb limit without going to the ring in a weakened condition. Moore, who was probably around 14st at the outset of his preparation, told them not to worry. "I was given a secret recipe by a dying Aborigine under a gumtree in a desert near Woorawoorwoorowwoora. At least I figured he was dying - he looked mighty sick," he said. "I was in Australia at the time, which was just as well because that was where he was. And he made me promise I would never tell the secret of this semi-vanishing oil until he died. Well, how do I know he's dead. I ain't taking no chances." As the Daily Mirror's sport's columnist of that era pointed out, Moore actually had not been in Australia since the summer of 1940, "and spent most of the time in such 'deserts' as Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney" - but, of course, this cast absolutely no reflection on the story. In truth, Moore's weight loss was brought about by punishing sessions in the gymnasium for which he wore a sweat suit tightened at the neck, wrists and just above his knees. The sweat which poured off his muscular body was enough to fill a tea cup. Another of the disciplines Moore employed to meet the problem of making a weight at which he was no longer comfortable was unsettling for fellow diners. Like most fighters Moore was a hearty eater and supportive of the contemporary theory that steaks provided most nourishment. But, ever mindful of his weight, Moore would chew and and chew until he had got all the goodness out of the meat and then discard the tissue into a bucket. If not a losing battle, things did not work out entirely to Moore's satisfaction. On the morning of the fight, before weighing in, he had to spend some time in a Turkish bath, which explained why he had to pace his effort carefully before stopping Pompey in the 10th round. Moore's prudent strategy combined with Pompey's understandable reluctance to take chances made quickly for a contest that did not fulfil expectations. Taking heed of the crowd's growing displeasure the referee, Jack Hart, warned Moore that unless he put action into his work he would forfeit his title. Afterwards, in his dressing-room, Moore was asked if he had been worried by Hart's admonishment. With great dignity, Moore replied: "I thought he was very rude." Long before an explosion in the telecommunications industry, Moore was internationally famous, a fighter of three decades whose true age was a mystery. His mother said he was born in 1913, making him almost 85 on his death this week. Moore insisted he was born in 1916. His mother said he was born in Benoit, Mississippi; Moore said it was Collinsville, Illinois. There was nothing mysterious about Moore's prowess in the ring, however. Cagey, evasive and a fast puncher he held the light-heavyweight title for 10 years from 1952 - by then 39, longer than any other fighter. When Moore did not like the way he was treated by the boxing community, he campaigned against perceived wrongs. When a sanctioning body threatened to take away his title for refusing to defend it at their time of bidding, he appealed to the United Nations. President Eisenhower once invited Moore to the White House for a meeting on juvenile delinquency. "Are you a Republican or a Democrat?" Eisenhower asked. "Neither," Moore replied. "I'm a diplomat." Fighting at a time when purses were only a fraction of what they are today Moore made money where he could. He sold used airplanes. When Moore fought in San Diego he took the ring announcer's microphone to advertise a restaurant - "The Chicken Shank" - he owned there. In retirement Moore was recruited to work with George Foreman. Before Foreman knocked out Joe Frazier in 1973 to become the heavyweight champion, Moore forecast the outcome in near perfect detail. "How can you be so sure?" he was asked. "Because I'm an expert," he replied. All the men Moore fought - including Rocky Marciano, and Muhammad Ali for the heavyweight title (when he was 49) - conceded that to him. REST EASY, CHAMP (Calgary Sun, Thursday, December 10, 1998) By Jim Taylor Archie Moore, who knocked out more opponents than anyone in the history of boxing, died yesterday at a San Diego hospice. He was 85. -- News Item. In 1940, seven years a pro, Archie Moore was the world's fifth-ranked middleweight, and washing dishes at $4 a day on a train between Oakland and Ogden, Utah, to stay alive. Even then, nobody wanted a piece of the Ol' Mongoose. He talked about that and other things on an afternoon in Edmonton eight years ago, an old black man in a blue pillbox hat sitting motionless in a hotel lobby, thinking perhaps of the many years that wouldn't have been allowed. "The last time I fought?" he said. "Well, now, I guess that would have been about 1963. I stopped in Dallas on my way home to San Diego after fighting somebody in the east, and there was a wrestling card that night. "Well, there was this truck I wanted, but it cost $4,000, which I didn't happen to have. So I phoned the promoter and said 'This is Archie Moore. Can you use me on the card?' He said sure, I could fight the main event. So I boxed this wrestler fella and got the $4,000 and bought the truck." A sly grin crept across his face. "Course, I was in trouble then because I couldn't drive the truck, one of those big 16-wheeler things. So I had to have a boy come out by night coach from San Diego and drive it back for me." Archie Moore was 72 that afternoon in Edmonton, or 74, or more likely 77 because his mother always insisted he was born in 1913, not four years later as he claimed when he bothered with approximations. He was there as George Foreman's 'assistant trainer' for a bout with Ken Lakusta. It was mostly an honourary thing, a gesture from a man trying to cheat time to another who'd long-since put it down for the count. But there was a moment during training sessions when he gently moved a prelim kid away from the heavy bag, stepped into it, and in a brief flurry showed him how it should be done. But now he was just sitting, hauling back the memories and musing on how it might have gone were he just starting out. "I don't fret over it," he said softly, "but sometimes I wonder ..." Archie Moore fought 228 times in 29 years, and about the only mistake he made was being too damned good. By the time the big names were ready to fight him, he was getting by on guile and memories and the art of making do. "Give him a ball of steel wool," it was written, "and he'll knit you a stove." He was 39 when he finally won the light-heavyweight crown from Joey Maxim (and held it for nearly a decade), 42 when he dropped Rocky Marciano early but lost in the ninth, 45 when he climbed off the canvas four times to beat Canada's Yvonne Durell, 49 when he fought an up-and-comer named Cassius Clay. "He laid a trap for a tiger," he chuckled, "and all he caught was a mangy old fox. He stopped me in four and danced around my ancient carcass." We talked for an hour. Then he excused himself briefly and came back with a scrapbook, 10 pages or so of old fight clippings and pictures laboriously assembled and pasted, taped or stapled to the pages, the cover a pencil sketch of the master in his late prime, sitting on a stool in the corner, towel draped over his shoulders. "I make these for charities, auctions and such," he said. "Would you like this one?" It's in front of me now, his signature in the top corner, as the magical afternoon comes flooding back with the news that he's gone. He spoke of his poetry, of the boys club he ran in San Diego in his personal war against drugs, of the boy he'd met at the training session that day who wanted to be a fighter and had no place to sleep. "Oh, my wife is going to give me heck," he chuckled. "Looks like I'm takin' another one home." He rose then, shook hands, and thanked me for my time. Two steps toward the elevator, he turned back. "You know that fight with the wrestler?" he said. "It may not have been exactly my last fight, because it seems to me I had a couple when I got home..." Rest easily, champ. And thanks for the memories.