BATTLING TIME TO PRESERVE (Allentown, Pa., Morning Call, Thurs., Aug. 6, 1998) By Denise Reaman He cranes his head sideways as he wheels the big, new Buick up the highway to his favorite breakfast spot. The machine flirts with the center line as the speedometer pushes 55. He twists an ear closer because his hearing isn't what it once was. Nor is his sniffer, having stopped a thousand punches over the years, breaking under four of them. His quick reflexes? Stolen by time and tragedy. The lucky leather gloves are packed away in a cedar chest. Didn't need them, gruffs "Killer" Lou Bodish, 79. Silence falls as talk-radio softly crackles from the car speakers. Minutes pass before the old boxing champ grumbles again, denying that an uppercut or two linger in his fists. His status as a prize fighter is only a memory. Still, even while he sits inside the chatter-filled restaurant, waitresses who need no prompting gush g'morning, set his usual on a paper placemat, almost as though he remains champ. Coffee, an OJ and Belgian waffles piled high with glazed strawberries await. A fork gripped in his weathered hand, he downplays his pluck, shuffles the fruit, tries to push off talk on boxing. It doesn't work. He admits he's hooked on the sport; goes to big pro bouts, including both Tyson-Holyfield contests; watches matches on TV daily. He says the will to take on his own challengers is now only a part of his past. His actions say otherwise. Thirty years ago, Bodish decided to chronicle his hometown's centennial celebration, turn it into a book. He knew it would take a lot of work. He'd face obstacles. None rivaled his brush with death. Like the scrapper he once was, Lou Bodish didn't go down for the count. Back home in Coplay, Bodish thumbs through thousands of papers and photos he's collected, organized, recorded. It's an extensive library. Remnants of his boxing career stand around his office, his basement. For the most part, his greatest interest in retirement has been the subject of local history. Namely, Coplay. He wanted to honor the hometown that he knows, the hometown that knows him. Bodish was born in a house on Sixth Street, not far from where he lives now. The youngest of five, he was two when his father died. His mother, Cecilia, raised the clan, earned money in a cigar factory. As much as he cherished his small neighborhood, Bodish dreamed of getting away. By high school, he found a solution. "I wanted to go to Hawaii," he says. "All I had to do was convince my mother to sign the papers to let me join the Army. She didn't want to, asked me not to go. But she signed them." The Army sent him to New York. The move quickly changed the wiry 17-year-old, whose frame barely tipped the scale at 135. Shortly after he arrived, a quick fistfight with an experienced soldier caught the eye of his corporal. "You're going to be a boxer," the corporal told Bodish. "I didn't believe him. I didn't even know how to fight," Bodish says. "Never had before." It didn't matter. Four days later, he grappled with the same soldier in the mess hall. The corporal delivered Bodish a stronger message: "From now on, you're boxing!" On Nov. 7, 1937, he climbed into the ring for the first time. He tuned out everything and everyone else but the man facing him. He pushed aside his fear and focused on winning. In the second round, he knocked out his opponent. Within a week, he'd do the same to two more contenders. By December's end, he had crushed a dozen more. His reign continued in New York and later in Hawaii, where he won the Army lightweight championship. Outside of the ring, he taught other soldiers how to keep in shape. When his stint ended in 1941, he joined the Reserves, returned to Coplay, took a job at the Steel. But he kept on boxing, only this time as a professional. He sparred in Easton and Bethlehem, Reading and Lancaster, Atlantic City and Trenton, Virginia and Kentucky. He became the 8th-ranked lightweight in the world, sometimes earning $5 for a win. He married Agnes Hacker in 1942 and a few years later, he reenlisted during World War II. He went into combat in Normandy, boxed when he could. After he got back to Coplay, he fought a few more times. He retired after a July 1946 match where knocked out his opponent in the first round. His final record spoke for itself: out of 97 bouts, he racked up 88 wins, six losses, three draws. It earned him inductions into halls of fame for the Old Time Boxers Association and boxing leagues in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Yet Bodish didn't need a pair of gloves to keep active. He and Agnes kept busy with their three children, and he always found a way to contribute to his town. For one, he started the Coplay Athletic Club, heading it for four decades. After a tour in the Korean War, he was elected to borough council. It seemed natural since he had already started collecting old documents, including copies of all of the borough's budgets and ordinances. During the '69 centennial, when Bodish was council president, he decided to record the borough's 100th birthday in a book. After all, the fete had enlisted service clubs, students, choirs, sports groups and the like. Nearly 2,200 people wore costumes, paraded through town, rejoiced in the borough's inception. Little did Bodish realize how extensive the project would become. For years, he sought copies of old photos, paying for duplicates himself. He carried pictures around town, asking folks to help identify faces. He kept lists, filled file cabinets. The task became more than a hobby. It turned into another round to win. On a September afternoon in 1994, he and Agnes were in their Buick crossing Route 145 at Columbia Street in Whitehall Township. They weren't much more than a mile from their home. He never saw the other car coming south on 145. The broadside impact sent the couple through the passenger door. She died at the scene. He was critical. The other driver was hospitalized for several days. For five months, Bodish couldn't return home. He spent his days in rehabilitation. The accident stole more agility than age had. With pins in his ankle, he needed to learn how to walk again. Bones on the right side of his body were shattered. His right arm became virtually useless. When he was finally released, he came home to silence. His wife was gone. He felt lonely, confined by a wheelchair. He saw the stack of photos sitting in his office. They looked daunting. For nearly two years, they sat untouched. Once he'd recovered enough, he decided he wouldn't give up on his project. He sat at his typewriter and started to clack out pages identifying events and people. Each day, he'd do a little more. A few weeks ago, Bodish headed over to the Coplay Library, his book in hand. It held 96 8-by-10s and 22 smaller pictures -- with 2,196 people identified. He donated one copy to the library, kept another for himself. He insists he's not the only one who would've given 30 years to such an undertaking. In fact, he's trying to complete a third book, one that looks at Coplay's history. And again he downplays his will. It's nothing, really, he says. Somebody's got to do it. It may as well be someone who doesn't stay down for the count. FOR OLD WARRIORS, A WORTHY SALUTE (Philadelhia Inquirer, November 17, 1998) By Jay Searcy Even if you don't like boxing, you have to like the Boxers' Ball. Black tie and tails, long gowns, flowers, music, Sugar Ray Leonard. The Fight for Education Foundation is raising money for college scholarships and expanding the program to non-boxing high school students. There's the spirit of so many people, from corporate offices, from City Hall, from classrooms and street gyms, taking time out, mixing, commending and contributing. Three previous balls have accounted for more than $300,000 in donations, and this year $200,000 more is expected to be added. This year, especially, you have to love the ball with its Bouts-and-Boogie party theme, a look back to the 1940s. Those were swing years, the war years, the big-band-jumping-and-jiving jitterbug years. And they were the years of two fabled lightweights -- the late Bob Montgomery of Philadelphia and Sidney Walker of Augusta, Ga., the gentleman they call Beau Jack. A special tribute will be paid to those two warring friends, who fought four times, filled Madison Square Garden, and raised a record total of $35 million for war bonds in a classic bout in 1944. Neither fighter would accept a purse that March night. Montgomery's family will accept boxing's tribute for "The Bobcat," the South Carolina transplant who fought for 12 years, compiled a 75-19-3 record against the best lightweights of his time, and won a world championship. Beau Jack flew in yesterday from Miami Beach and will step into the ring tomorrow night, at age 76, to accept his award. His voice is barely audible now, a hoarse whisper, but he tells his story with the same passion he carried into the ring, without regret, without blame, without bitterness. Beau Jack, a name given to him by his grandmother after a slave she once knew, shined shoes on the sidewalks of Augusta before he was a prizefigher, and he shined shoes at the Fountainbleu Hotel in Miami Beach, then cut lawns and picked up garbage when his fighting day was over. "I had a hard time all my life," he said in a recent interview, "but people always helped me. How could I ever complain?" He got help from his grandmother, who spanked him when he came home crying without his shoe-shine money because bigger, older boys had taken it. "She taught me to never take nothing off of nobody, not to run from trouble," he said. "When I turned pro, she said, 'OK, but you better not let them boys beat you up, because when you come home, I'll whup you, too.' " He had help from Bobby Jones, the golfing great, who got him a job shining shoes at famed Augusta National and who later chipped in with other golfers to send him to Massachusetts for boxing training. He got help from Frank Sinatra, George Raft and Humphrey Bogart, who checked on him in Miami Beach when his boxing days were over. "Lots of movie stars used to see me fight," Beau Jack said. "They were my friends, and helped me out a lot. It was so beautiful to know that people cared for you." He left school in the third grade and could barely read and write, but he was brilliant in the ring, a buzz saw with such courage he once tried to stand and fight on a broken leg. He fought a record total of 27 times at Madison Square Garden, 21 of them in the main event, and in 1944 he fought there three times in one month, another record. He lives alone in an apartment in South Beach, but soon, he said, he will return forever to Augusta. "That's home," he said. "When you miss your home, you miss everything, and I'm missing it now." They will stand in their tuxedos and gowns and 1940s attire tomorrow night when Beau Jack enters the ring at the Apollo of Temple, and the old fighter's ears will ring with the kind of cheers he hasn't heard in more than 40 years. "That will be for me," he said, "and for my friend Bob." ARCH BATTLED THROUGH A CHANGING WORLD (Toronto Globe & Mail, Friday, Dec. 11, 1998) By Stephen Brunt As every one of his obituaries pointed out this week, Archie Moore was the only man to have fought both Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali, a living link between two distant eras of professional boxing. But that bit of trivia doesn't begin to do him justice. Moore began his remarkable career on the last day of January, 1936, knocking out someone named the Poco Kid in Hot Springs, Ark. On that day, Joe Louis was less than two years into his professional career, and six months away from his first fight with Max Schmeling. The reigning heavyweight champion was Jim Braddock, the Cinderella Man. Marciano was 12-years-old. By the time Moore finished, knocking out Mike DiBiase in three rounds in March, 1963, four months after being knocked out by Cassius Clay, he was in his 50th year -- though he claimed to be a mere 47. During the course of his boxing life had come the Second World War, the Korean War, and the first years of the war in Vietnam. He began boxing in the depths of the Depression, and quit with John Kennedy in the White House. There were 228 bouts in all, fought all over the world, in Australia, in Europe, in Brazil and Uruguay and Argentina, in Canada, in every two-bit town in the United States of America. Moore had been boxing professionally for 16 years when he finally got a shot at the world light heavyweight championship, and won it from Joey Maxim. From 1952 until the day he retired, he wouldn't lose a fight at 175 pounds. But of course, then as now, the heavyweight division was where the money was, and so Moore spent much of his late career fighting much bigger men with mixed results. In 1985, 30 years to the day after he'd been knocked out by Marciano, he sat in a Las Vegas casino coffee shop, in the company of a fan doing his best to act like a reporter. Moore was in town as part of Larry Holmes entourage, while the then heavyweight champion prepared for his first fight with Michael Spinks. With a win, Holmes' record would move to 49-0, matching Marciano's final tally. Moore had been Marciano's 49th victim. And of course Spinks was the latest light heavyweight champion to try and win the bigger prize. (Which he would do, via a controversial decision, derailing Holmes pursuit of Marciano's record.) So for Moore there was a double connection. "I come in on historical moments," he explained. "The ones where I have some truck with history." He didn't open up much at first, a little aloof, a little prickly, preferring to concentrate on his meal. Then he was complimented on his hat, the floppy tam that had become a bit of a trademark. Moore beamed. "You like it? My wife makes them for me. They're modelled after the uniform of French sailors." Now, he'd tell his story. In the first round, Marciano had of course come right at him. "I was an old man fighting a young bull," Moore said. "Marciano fought his way because nobody could make him change his style of fighting." But Moore stood his ground. His boxing skills had always been both original and magnificent, drawn from a textbook of which he was the only author. He feinted and fired a right hand, and Marciano dropped to the canvas. It has been suggested since that it was more of a flash knockdown than anything. Moore, though, says Marciano was genuinely hurt. When he got up, the referee took his gloves, and wiped them on his shirt, as is the custom. But, Moore said, he also did more than that -- he snapped Marciano's arms, hard, and thereby helped him regain his senses. "The referee didn't give me my equal rights in that match," he said. "He overreacted. He knew that I knew what I was doing." Marciano found his bearings. "Then the fury of the storm was on again." He stopped Moore in the ninth round. Three years later, Moore was again anticipating a historic moment. He sat in the eerie calm of George Foreman's dressing room in Auburn Hills, Mich., before the ancient warrior's fight with Bobby Hitz -- a tomato-can opponent from the early stages of a comeback that would see Foreman miraculously reclaim the heavyweight championship (and which will presumably end in January, when at 50 years of age he fights Larry Holmes. Foreman, unlike Moore, took a 10 year hiatus along the way.) Moore, who would work in Foreman's corner until ill health forced him to remain home, was still wearing his tam, but was nearly silent now, as if in a trance, sitting like the Buddha while Foreman read the Bible to himself. He was thanked for that afternoon of reminiscence, and the spell broke for a moment. A broad smile crossed his face. "Thank you," said the Ol' Mongoose. "Thank you for remembering."