By Scoop Malinowski
I discovered boxing gold. In December I found an old “The Saturday Evening Post” magazine from September 17, 1955 for 50 cents in a thrift store in Bradenton, FL. One of the featured articles was “The Mystery of Archie Moore” by W. C. Heinz.
The five page article a week before Moore (unsuccessfully) challenged Rocky Marciano for the World Heavyweight Championship at Yankee Stadium, revealed many fascinating insights about the “Old Mongoose” which I never knew (despite doing a Biofile interview with him in the mid 90s).
In July 1955 Moore was invited to a White House luncheon to combat juvenile delinquency and “was only one of 32 top sports figures present to have a prepared plan. This came out when President Eisenhower suggested that the guests adjourn to the White House steps for picture taking, and Archie stood up and respectfully requested the opportunity to speak. While the President and his other distinguished guests listened in amazement, Archie held them spellbound with a scheme by which five world champions could conceivably raise more than a million dollars for the cause. ‘Mr. Moore,’ White House aides later quoted the President as having said, ‘you ought to be elected to Congress.'”
Moore needed a $45,000 publicity campaign designed to goad Marciano into signing to fight him, which included letters and cartoon fliers sent to sports writers and editors. Archie wrote as many as 150 post cards and letters a day. Toledo Blade cartoonist Walt Buchanan contributed his talent without charge.
Moore earned $81,540 for beating middleweight champ Carl “Bobo” Olson earlier in 1955 by third round KO but was “still in debt.”
Moore quotes: “I have a friend in St. Louis who can sleep with his eyes open. Wouldn’t it be great if I could master that for when I’m being interviewed?”
“I couldn’t get any fights here, because the top men wouldn’t fight me. You know that. I went to Argentina in 1951 and 1953. I pursued my craft there with honesty and skill.”
“I was fifteen and I was disinterested in school. I got pretty good marks. I never failed any subjects. But I wasn’t interested in being a janitor or a mailman. I was interested in becomin’ a figure, and all I wanted to learn was how to count the money I’d make.”
“I loved music and I wanted the glamour and adventure of it. I knew musicians led adventurous lives.”
Moore will only hint at the chances he had to pick up extra money by going in the tank. “Many times. I used to say: there must be some way to get around this. Guys who can’t carry my bag, the bums I can lick, they’re fighting the main events in good towns. Me, I can’t even give you the time of day. I can’t change suits. I got to walk three miles to the gym and back, and then when I get back I don’t find too much to eat. I knew I was doing right though. The question was: how long could I go straight? How could I avoid those curves? Well, I did. I knew there were quite a few men of class and means and character who love the fight game. I said to myself there must be someone willin’ to help. Then the problem was to find this right man. It came about by accident. Enter Bob Reese.”
Sadly, Moore was robbed by the establishment. “Last year (1954) as a result of four fights, Moore had a gross income of $98,152.84. But his expenses, including the share of his manager, Charley Johnston, came to $77,349.86. His net income of $20,802.98 before taxes was dispersed in payment of debts. It is Reese’s opinion that if the Marciano fight should draw $1,000,000, Archie’s 20 percent of the net, plus his $81,540 purse for the Olson fight, will do no more than get him even financially.”
“In 1952, it cost Moore $8,200 to win the light heavyweight title. Joey Maxim had to be guaranteed $100,000 before he would get in the ring with Archie. Moore borrowed $10,000 from the International Boxing Club for training expenses. He came out with this debt and a purse of $1,800.”
Moore quote: “Bobo Olson told me that he’d been trying to fight my style and did I notice it? I told him I knew that for years.”
Moore’s greatest quote: “There’s a common feeling between all fighters, especially those who fight one another. It’s a common sympathy, unorganized, but if, in general, men felt the way fighters do, with deep-seated admiration and familiar with the sacrifices and hunger and hard work of one another, there would be no more trouble in this world.”
“There isn’t a person on earth who don’t have troubles of some sort. But resentment, that in itself would lick a man more than another’s man’s fists.”
Archie Moore, December 13, 1913 – December 9, 1998) was the longest reigning World Light Heavyweight Champion of all time (1952 – 1962). He had one of the longest professional careers in the history of the sport, competing from 1935 to 1963. His final ring record was 186-23-10 with 132 knockouts and one no contest.
He lost to Marciano by 9th round KO but floored the champion in the second round with a right hand, only the second time Rocky was knocked to the canvas in his career. In Archie’s autobiography, The Archie Moore Story (1960), he describes in detail the referee, though Rocky arose at “two”, continuing a superfluous mandatory eight-count: “…Kessler went on, three, four. The mandatory count does not apply in championship bouts (1955)…My seconds were screaming for me to finish him and I moved to do so, but Kessler…carefully wiped off Rocky’s gloves, giving him another few seconds…he gave him a sort of stiff jerk, which may have helped Rocky clear his head.” Moore admits to being angry enough at what he saw as interference, he went recklessly, “blind and stupid with rage”, going for the knockout, toe-to-toe. This resentment toward referee Kessler appears only to have grown more entrenched. By the time of a recorded interview with Peter Heller, in October, 1970, Archie had this to say: “(Kessler) had no business refereeing that match because he was too excitable. He didn’t know what to do…He grabbed Marciano’s gloves and began to wipe Marciano’s gloves and look over his shoulder…I’ll never forget it. It cost me the heavyweight title.”