Saturday, September 16, 2000
Updated: September 20, 5:29 PM ET
By Ron Flatter
Special to ESPN.com
Dec. 10, 1958 - One week short of his sixth anniversary as light-heavyweight champ, it appeared Archie Moore would not even last the first round against Yvon Durelle, a 29-year-old fisherman from the Canadian Maritimes, in Montreal's Forum. Though a 3-1 favorite, Moore was knocked to the canvas three times (one knockdown was later determined to be a slip).
While lying on his back the third time and taking a nine-count, the 40-something Moore told himself, "This is no place to be resting. I'd better get up and get with it."
He did that, and so did Durelle. Both men fought furiously. In the fifth round, Durelle floored Moore again, this time with a wild left hook that was just as surprising to the 8,484 fans as it was to Moore.
Seated in his corner after the round, Moore waved to his wife, who was sitting behind Durelle. The challenger, though, thought Moore was taunting him. Whatever the case, Moore had succeeded at getting into Durelle's head.
Moore went on the attack and never let up. He started scoring with his left, knocking Durelle to the canvas in the seventh and 10th rounds. Boxing's elder statesman seemed to be gaining energy as the young challenger was losing it. Moore floored the exhausted Durelle early in the 11th and moments after he rose at the count of nine, Moore scored with one last punch. Durelle was down and out at the 49-second mark.
Odds 'n' Ends
After Moore thought he had broken through the color barrier into the boxing spotlight of California just before World War II, his bad fortune continued when the San Diego arena he targeted for his future burned down.
Perhaps another sign of the racism Moore endured in his career was the paycheck he received for winning the light-heavyweight title. After champion Joey Maxim received his guaranteed $100,000, Moore received his 10 percent of the take, which turned out to be a whopping $800.
Before the fight was arranged, Maxim's manager, Doc Kearns, made Moore's manager give him a piece of Moore's contract.
While Moore defended his light-heavyweight title only nine times in an eight-year stretch (June 1953 to June 1961), he was a victim of such practices on his way to his first title shot. Maxim had defended his light-heavyweight title only twice in almost three years before signing to fight Moore in 1952.
Because he refused to be controlled by the mob, Moore did not fight at boxing's mecca, Madison Square Garden, until Aug. 11, 1954, when he knocked out challenger Harold Johnson.
Moore missed his flight to London for his 1956 title defense against Yolande Pompey because he was absorbed playing snooker in Harlem.
In 1959, future "Paper Lion" author George Plimpton practiced an early brand of participatory sports journalism when he survived a brief stay in the ring with Moore.
Moore's last successful title defense, against Giulio Rinaldi in 1961, came eight months after Rinaldi had beaten Moore in a non-title fight in Rinaldi's native Italy.
Before he knocked out Moore in 1962, Cassius Clay wrote "Moore in 4, Liston in 8" on a chalkboard outside the dressing room. Clay made good on his promise, sort of. He scored a fourth-round TKO against Moore and then beat Sonny Liston in seven rounds 15 months later.
In his last fight, Moore stopped Mike DiBiase in three rounds on March 15, 1963 in Phoenix.
Moore fought one exhibition after his retirement, knocking out Nap Mitchell in the third round in 1965.
Moore was inducted into Boxing's Hall of Fame in 1966.
He was hospitalized for a few days in 1985 when he was attacked by a swarm of bees in the backyard of his San Diego home. Moore had taken up beekeeping as a hobby, and he was moving a hive when the swarm came after him.
"Those bees almost killed me," said Moore. "They covered me like a robe. It was the worst fight of my career."
Renowned San Diego sports writer Jack Murphy dubbed Moore "The Ol' Mongoose," although Moore sort of suggested the nickname himself. "A long time ago," Moore said, "I was telling Jack Murphy that in the ring I tried to be like a small, amazingly quick and fierce little animal called the mongoose. He wrote a column about it, and it stuck."
Murphy also liked to refer to Moore as "Childe Arch."