Boxer Archie Moore Dead at 84
Dec. 10, 1998
SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Durable in the ring, charismatic and somewhat mysterious outside it, Archie Moore left a remarkable legacy.
Moore died Wednesday at age 84, remembered as much for being a great person as a great boxer.
He won the light-heavyweight title at age 39 and had a record 141 knockouts. He knocked down undefeated heavyweight Rocky Marciano before losing, and was nearly 50 and just months from retirement when he lost to Muhammad Ali.
Known for his ready smile and his knee-length boxing trunks, Moore also had a soft spot for youth, having spent 22 months in a reformatory after being caught stealing three times. He spent his retirement cautioning young boys to stay away from drugs and set up a mentoring program to help disadvantaged youth.
President Eisenhower once invited Moore to the White House to join a group fighting juvenile delinquency.
Eisenhower aides quoted the president as saying Moore should be a congressman. ``Are you a Republican or a Democrat?'' Eisenhower said.
``Neither,'' Moore said with a laugh. ``I'm a diplomat.''
Moore was clearly one of a kind.
``There wasn't anything about him that wasn't unusual or fun,'' longtime boxing publicist Bill Caplan said. ``Everything was mysterious. He created his own mystique. He never needed a publicist to make himself colorful.''
Even his modest San Diego home had a unique touch _ a swimming pool shaped like a boxing glove.
``My dad lived a good life and we're not sad,'' his son, Billy, said. ``We know he's gone home to be with the Lord and we rejoice in that.''
Moore had heart surgery a few years ago and his health had deteriorated in the past two weeks, Billy Moore said. Moore was taken to a San Diego hospice last week and several of his eight children kept vigil at his bedside.
Moore's survivors also include his wife, Joan. Details of the funeral were not yet available, Billy Moore said late Wednesday.
Moore's 27-year career began well before World War II and lasted into the television age.
``Archie, to me, was the forerunner of fighters who were appreciated outside the ring as well as in the ring,'' said Angelo Dundee, the longtime trainer who worked with many champions, including Ali. ``He was slick, he was smart, he was his own PR man. The media loved him because he gave them something, plus he could fight like hell.
``He fought everybody. He did a lot for boxing.''
The news stunned Canada's Yvon Durelle, who knocked down Moore four times in a famous 1958 fight at the Montreal Forum, only to be knocked out in the 11th round as the bloodied Moore defended his title.
``It's breaking me up,'' Durelle, his voice stammering, told the Moncton Times-Transcript from his home in the northeastern New Brunswick fishing community of Baie-Ste-Anne.
``He was a nice guy, a hell of a guy. Too bad, too bad,'' said Durelle, 69. ``Land sakes alive I wish I could (go to his funeral).''
Moore used to carry a 16mm film of the Durelle fight with him, Caplan said, and used it as part of his inspirational speeches. ``He'd show it and say, no matter how out you are, you can always get up and come back and emerge victorious.''
Moore retired at 49 in 1963 after a career considered one of the most amazing examples of longevity in sports.
He held the light heavyweight title for 11 years, knocking out 141 opponents in 228 bouts, according to the Boxing Record Book. Other sources list his knockout total at 145, while others say it was 129. He ended his career with 194 victories, 26 losses and eight draws.
There were even discrepancies about his age, with his mother saying he was born on Dec. 13, 1913, and the fighter claiming it was on Dec. 13, 1916. That just added to his mystique, as did the secret diet he said he picked up from Australian aborigines.
Even his style was a bit of a mystery, Caplan said. Moore was a great defensive fighter, and was known as ``The Mongoose.'' He had a sharp memory, and even in recent years he loved to illustrate his style by shadow boxing.
``In my view, he was the greatest light heavyweight in the history of boxing and one of the greatest boxers in any division,'' said former light-heavyweight champ Jose Torres, who never fought Moore.
``What he accomplished after he was 30 years of age was unbelievable. He became greater and greater the older he got.''
Born Archibald Lee Wright in Benoit, Miss., he began his career in 1936 and won the light heavyweight title in 1952 with a victory over Joey Maxim. He successfully defended it nine times, but along the way lost to heavyweight champions Marciano, Floyd Patterson and Ali. He was the only boxer who fought both Marciano and Ali.
Moore fought Marciano on Sept. 21, 1955, losing on a ninth-round knockout. Nevertheless, it did nothing to diminish his image as one of the most courageous boxers ever.
Fighting an undefeated heavyweight king 10 years his junior, Moore floored Marciano in the second round. Marciano eventually wore Moore down, to the point where the referee wanted to stop the fight after eight rounds.
``Oh, no,'' an exhausted Moore protested. ``I want to be counted out. I'm a champion, too.''
In 1961, the National Boxing Association stripped him of his title because of politics. Moore lost to Ali in four rounds on Nov. 15, 1962. His last fight came four months later, and he was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1966.
Moore trained some fighters after he retired from the ring, including George Foreman for the famous ``Rumble in the Jungle'' against Ali in Zaire in 1974.