Another Knockout by Archie Moore

By George Thomas Clark on March 27, 2013
Another Knockout by Archie Moore
“Did people ask me to throw fights? I don’t use that kind of language.” (Michael O'Brien)

Slowly the door opened to reveal the distinguished brown face, highlighted by a graying mustache and goatee, of Archie Moore…

On a summer evening in 1980 I called Archie Moore, introduced myself as a correspondent, stated my admiration for his thunderous punching, and asked for an interview while he was in Sacramento to be honored during an amateur boxing tournament.

“That’s fine,” he said. “Can you come about eight tomorrow morning?”

“Well, is ten or eleven okay?”

“No, I’ll be busy later. I’m free at eight.”

“Sorry. I can’t come then.”

In the most mellifluous voice I’ve heard, he asked, “Whhyy?”

Had I been candid, I’d have answered, “I usually work till midnight and then stay out too late and struggle to get up at eleven or so and even then often feel like a zombie.”  Instead, I said, “Ah, eight o’clock is…it’s really early and I don’t know…okay, I’ll see you then.”

“My room number’s…”

Despite maintaining discipline that Friday night, I was frightened by the six-thirty alarm but stumbled out of bed and, in honor of a champion, did a few exercises before showering and driving to the motel. I knocked on the appointed door and waited about a minute before knocking again. Slowly the door opened to reveal the distinguished brown face, highlighted by a graying mustache and goatee, of Archie Moore, attired in a white bath towel around his waist. 

“Come in, Mr. Clark,” he said, and I shook his hand, noting it was much larger and stronger than mine.

Moore dressed, and for two hours I listened to boxing tales that spanned Jack Dempsey to Muhammad Ali, and when I wasn’t scribbling notes a tournament official photographed us in several boxing poses that show a beanpole squaring off against a still-powerful pugilist. We then walked to the motel restaurant, where men recognized and praised him and introduced him to their families, and he bought me a delicious high-cholesterol breakfast.

After covering the boxing tournament that Saturday night, and delivering some fact-clotted words on deadline, I had my chance to perform Sunday night. And in three hours, for twenty bucks that also covered the interview time, I wrote a feature that’s here revised and updated:

Rocky Marciano was hit with a right uppercut and plunged head down to the canvas, landing in haphazard fashion on his hands and one knee. He arose at the count of four and staggered into the ropes where he draped his arms while staring glassy-eyed into the crowd of sixty thousand at Yankee Stadium. Archie Moore, the forty-two-year-old light heavyweight champion, tried to heed his corner’s cry, “Hit him, hit him,” and lunged at the dazed heavyweight titlist. But referee Harry Kessler, either forgetting or ignoring the agreement to wave the mandatory eight-count rule, jumped in front of Moore and told him to back off and started the count again. Then Kessler grabbed Marciano’s gloves and jerked him in an apparent effort at revival.

That was in 1955 but Moore remains incensed. Scowling while he recalled the incident, he told me to hold my hands out to represent Marciano’s gloves, and demonstrated Kessler’s maneuver with a tug that indicated “The Old Mongoose” is still powerful.

“Henry Kessler jobbed me by not letting me get to Marciano in that second round, and I defy him to prove otherwise,” Moore said. “The next day, when we studied the films, it proved my case. Then, several days later, the sequence where Kessler got between us had been carefully edited out.

“I got too angry after that and started to go after Marciano. We traded a lot, and I’m convinced that no fighter, past or present, would be smart to stand and trade punches with Rocky Marciano. He decked me twice in the sixth round and stopped me in the ninth.”

So Moore was unable to realize the long unachieved goal of a light heavyweight champion winning the heavyweight crown. But he owns boxing’s counterpart to the home run record, that of most knockouts: one hundred forty. He was a consummate strategist who conceived countless methods to render his opponents unconscious.

“I had knockout power everywhere,” said Moore. “I had no preference whatever which type of punch I hit a man with, or where. You’ve just got to go, that’s all. My philosophy was to get guys on queer street right away and keep them there.”

Poverty, the spawning ground of most boxers, was the keynote of Moore’s youth in St. Louis. He and his friends couldn’t play golf or tennis so they fought bare-knuckled in the street or carried boxing gloves with them as they roamed and sought to test themselves. Those impromptu brawls in the ghettos served as Moore’s amateur career.

“I didn’t box in the amateurs because I wasn’t interested in trinkets. I wanted money,” he said, and began to fight for pay as a welterweight in 1936. His age at the time, as today, has been kept secret. The Encyclopedia of Boxing lists his year of birth as 1913.  Moore won’t confirm that but does admit to “being up in years.”

For the next sixteen years Moore fought for subsistence wages in a succession of smoky gyms, auditoriums, and warehouses. Sometimes he earned enough for transportation to fights in the next backwater towns. Sometimes he didn’t. When broke, Moore often hitched rides on freight trains and fought for the short end of purses against hometown foes favored by corrupt judges. As Moore’s knockout record expanded, he had increasing difficulty convincing highly-ranked boxers to fight him.

“I couldn’t get a title shot in any division I was in on the way up,” he said. “Billy Conn never would fight me. Some people said I was too good for my own good. Also, I wouldn’t cater to people. Did people ask me to throw fights? I don’t use that kind of language, but it was tantamount to that.”

In 1952, when Moore was probably thirty-nine years old, he was awarded a long-denied chance at the light heavyweight title and defeated Joey Maxim. What he had striven so long to achieve, he was unwilling to relinquish. The master of the knockout, even in his forties, was superior to his youthful competition. No light heavyweight ever beat Moore in a title fight and he retired with his championship belt in 1962.

If a man can beat the world’s best in middle age and last a few rounds with much younger and larger Cassius Clay—as Moore did at forty-nine—then it’s likely he’ll be formidable in old age. In 1976, as an effervescent sixty-three-year-old, Moore went to Nigeria to coach boxing. One morning he was being chauffeured through a scenic region outside Lagos and asked the driver to stop on a bridge so he could take a picture of the river that flowed underneath. He saw workers below who were called “sand hogs” and carried hundred-fifty-pound buckets of sand up the banks to be used in making cement. Moore was impressed with their huge, sculpted muscles, and snapped several photos. As he was returning to the car, the largest worker approached and angrily said, “Bring it.”

“Bring what?” said Moore.

“The camera,” said the hulking young man.

“What for?”

“I don’t want you taking pictures and making fun of us.”

“I’m not making fun of you. I’m your brother,” said Moore.

“Bring it here,” shouted the man, who began to approach Moore.

The old champ’s geniality had been strained. He gently tossed his camera into the car and waited as the powerful laborer charged. Moore caught the African with a left hook that knocked him against the railing and opened a bloody cut on his mouth. Still, he attacked Moore again, grabbing him around the neck.

“I could just feel that man’s strength about to crush me,” he said. “I knocked off one of his arms with my right hand and followed with a left hook to the body and a three-punch flurry. Ah, that man was so big and beautiful. He was bigger than Ken Norton. He just sank to the ground like he was sitting down.”

Archie Moore had just recorded his hundred-forty-first knockout.

This is an excerpt from Uppercuts: Tales from the Ring, by George Thomas Clark. Uppercuts is available as an eBook at, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, Google Books, and Apple iTunes. The price is only $0.99. Additional information is available on the author’s website at

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Rocky Marciano & Archie Moore - In Training 1955 (16mm film transfer)

Rocky Marciano v Archie Moore 1955

Cassius Clay vs Archie Moore - November 15, 1962

Archie Moore - SportsCentury (Documentary)

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  1. johnny yuma 08:10am, 04/05/2013

    You know when I was10,just started following boxing I saw Arch fighting Yvon Durelle,I said Moore fighting a Girl,ha ha ha!!!You know Tony Anthony was kind of a enigma,I really liked the kid, wonder where he is today?

  2. the thresher 05:07pm, 03/30/2013

    Tom, stop being so decent and nice. Very un-writer-like

  3. George Thomas Clark 09:00am, 03/30/2013

    I agree with Eric and Irish that Archie exaggerated his knockdown of Marciano.  I was quoting him from a 1980 article I wrote, which I make clear in this current expanded article, but more than 30 years ago I had no way of confirming his account. 

    This time, of course, I did check YouTube and saw that it was a flash knockdown that did not appear to have been edited - Moore claimed that it had been.  However, this was Archie’s story, in his words, so I decided not to challenge him. 

    Perhaps I should’ve written: “Archie Moore ‘says’ he hit Rocky Marciano with a right hand…”  And then I could’ve mentioned my YouTube conclusion. 

    There was no “Long Count” controversy in 1980, and there will be none now.  Furthermore, Archie did not disrespect Rocky but praised him as, essentially, the most formidable toe-to-toe fighter in history:  “I got too angry after that and started to go after Marciano. We traded a lot, and I’m convinced that no fighter, past or present, would be smart to stand and trade punches with Rocky Marciano. He decked me twice in the sixth round and stopped me in the ninth.”

    If Robert would like me to make these small, but (to some) meaningful changes to the story, I’d be happy to do so. :

  4. Eric 05:22pm, 03/29/2013

    Moore is one of my favorite fighters and I always liked his cross-arm style that influenced many fighters later on like Ken Norton, Joe Frazier, and later in his second career Big George Foreman. However, his description of the Marciano knockdown is nothing more than hyperbole. Marciano was up after a few seconds, and like Irish Frankie said,  proceeded to issue a severe beating to Moore. Moore made a valiant effort against Marciano but the outcome was never in doubt. Marciano was a long way from being on “queer” street after the brief knockdown,  and perhaps Moore being Moore wants to turn his very brief shot at heavyweight glory into something it really wasn’t. The Patterson-Moore clash a year later always puzzles me though. Here was Moore, who put up such a brave and tough stand against the fearsome punching Marciano only to be knocked out by Patterson in five rounds a year later. If I were alive back then I would have surely put my money on Moore despite the huge age difference against the 21 year old Patterson.

  5. Jim Crue 12:34pm, 03/29/2013

    the announcer was Jack Drees

  6. peter 09:08am, 03/29/2013

    I enjoyed your Lagos story! An excellent glimpse of Archie Moore—that we only get on

  7. Mike Casey 04:46am, 03/29/2013

    Irish is quite correct about the Marciano knockdown.

  8. Gordon Marino 06:52pm, 03/28/2013

    Wonderful piece about one of my all time favorites. Always wished I could have talked with him. Such a complex and nurturing person - I love the way he helped get Floyd back in the ring after Patterson lost to Johansson.

  9. the thresher 04:10pm, 03/28/2013

    Durelle-Moore #1 quite possibly the greatest fight of all time.

  10. Clarence George 10:43am, 03/28/2013

    Not to be confused with the lovely Yvonne De Carlo.

  11. johnny yuma 10:41am, 03/28/2013

    Arch was ATG!! Durelle great bout. Who was announcer he did great job. Didn’t arena look shabby?

  12. bkermike 10:25am, 03/28/2013

    sorry lads….I meant Yvon Durelle the Fighting Fisherman

  13. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:38am, 03/28/2013

    George Thomas Clark- This bullshit needs to be nipped in the bud….the second round knockdown was a flash knockdown….pure and simple. Thanks to the revisionist historical writing in your paragraph above describing the action in the second round and other unchallenged examples…it won’t be long before this bogus version will rival the “long count” in boxing history. Here’s what happened…Rocky took the best that Moore had to offer and proceeded to beat him within an inch of his life! Moore the great power punching technician with an eight inch reach advantage won one round…period! One more thing…overblown LH my ass…when campaigning as a LH Archie was always and ever a heavyweight…and in fact a bigger man than Rocky!

  14. Mike Schmidt 12:47am, 03/28/2013

    Bikermike if my faded jaded memory serves me correct , and I may be wrong, you are a Canuck of the true Stompin Tom Connors type—boxing is a small universe of course in terms of who knows whom—in Kitchener, my hometown, Archie came in for an amateur show ( they put a big picture of him in our paper the next day )—Floyd Patterson came into town a few times—both as a courtesy to a guy that ran the local boxing club, a lovely police officer, and big man, Sgt Jerome “Hook” Mccomb

  15. the thresher 06:06pm, 03/27/2013

    Thank you.

  16. bikermike 05:55pm, 03/27/2013

    “Holy Cow’....I never got to meet the great ones..up here in the heartland and nine ex wives to keep happy…
    Mike SCHMIDT…I wish I was there to meet ‘The ‘Ol Mongoose…..true honour

  17. Clarence George 04:46pm, 03/27/2013

    Of course, someone someday will write with equal affection and respect (not to mention skill) about Adrien Broner. 

    OK, I’m celebrating April Fools’ Day a tad early.

  18. bikermike 04:42pm, 03/27/2013

    Archie had class….outside the ring…....he was very good inside the ring
    when Archie fought the ‘fighting fisherman’... Earnie Terrell….There were eight knock downs…..Moore was very tough…knew his trade

  19. bikermike 04:34pm, 03/27/2013

    Damn ...Archie Moore was good….that cassius clay wanted to put his pelt on his warlance ...was proof…even into the sixties….that Archie Moore was a thoroughly dangerous man

  20. MIKE SCHMIDT 03:32pm, 03/27/2013

    A treasured moment and hats off to you for sharing it such a vivid way. I met the Mongoose along with my Dad when I was eleven years old. Young or old he made everyone around feel special and held all and everything in respect—A REAL CHAMPION—thanks again Sir and adios.

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