Archie McBride: Old Boxers Never Die

By Clarence George on January 23, 2014
Archie McBride: Old Boxers Never Die
“How about Patterson?” Budd Schulberg thought to himself, “Archie can't deal with Floyd.”

He’s not on anyone’s list of best or greatest, and no one wonders how he would have fared against Dempsey, Louis, Marciano, or Ali…

“Old soldiers never die – they just fade away.”—Douglas MacArthur

The same is true of old boxers, disappearing like misty ghosts through the cracks of our blithe unawareness and ego-driven attention spans.

I’m no better than anyone else. It’s only recently, eight months after the fact, that I learned of heavyweight Archie McBride’s death on May 15, 2013, at age 84.

He’s not on anyone’s list of best or greatest, and no one wonders how he would have fared against Dempsey, Louis, Marciano, or Ali. He was just a journeyman, an opponent, taking on the good, the bad, and the so-so in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois, Maryland, and Florida, as well as in Cuba, Sweden, Germany, and Canada.

Born in Brewton, Alabama, on either the 1st or 9th of February, 1929, McBride lived first in Pennsylvania before moving to New Jersey. Never an amateur, he fought as a pro from 1946 to 1967. He wound up with a record of 30 wins, 15 by knockout, 20 losses, and two draws. He was stopped six times, by Jimmy Walker by first-round KO in 1951, Oakland Billy Smith by ninth-round TKO in 1954, Floyd Patterson by seventh-round KO in 1955, Tony Anthony by ninth-round TKO in 1958, Doug Jones by fifth-round KO in 1965, and Wilhelm von Homburg (Vigo the Carpathian of Ghostbusters II) by ninth-round KO in 1966.

He fought many of his era’s tough guys, twice facing Nino Valdes, winning the first on points and losing the second, in Havana, by split decision. He also twice faced Karl Mildenberger, both times in Berlin, drawing against him in the first and losing to him on points in the second, and he was decisioned by Ingemar Johansson in Gothenburg. He took on Bob Satterfield at Chicago Stadium on May 11, 1955, winning by split decision.

McBride was managed by Budd Schulberg, who relates a characteristically amusing anecdote:

“I did box. Very poorly – very, very poorly. I was a very sub-mediocre boxer in my youth. I had one terrible flaw as a boxer: I could not stand being punched in the nose! Secondly, I could never find any defense against being punched in the nose. It doesn’t hurt so much, but it humiliates you.

“I remember Archie had graduated from the little fights we’d started with out in Trenton, and I was trying to get a main event in Madison Square Garden. We were talking about taking on a big strong heavyweight at the time, Bob Baker, whom I thought Archie could beat. The matchmaker said, ‘No, how about Floyd Patterson?’ And I thought to myself, ‘Oh, God. Archie can’t deal with Floyd. It’s too much.’ I got terribly nervous. I was worried that something might happen to Archie, that he might get hurt.

“The Sunday before the fight in the Garden, about five days before, our sparring partner didn’t show up. Roosevelt LaBoard – I’ll never forget that name. So I said, ‘Archie, I’ll go in and spar with you.’ By this time I guess I’m in my forties. I said, ‘Only for Christ’s sake, Archie, please don’t hurt me.’ He said, ‘Mr. Schulberg, would I hurt you?’ He was really offended. About one minute into it he jabbed me in my nose, and he broke it so badly, I was a mess. The next day I spoke at an author’s luncheon in Philadelphia with plaster from one cheekbone to the other. That was my last fight.”

After leaving the ring, McBride, a married man with 10 children, worked until 1980 for a refrigeration company in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. He spent the next several years employed by New Jersey Transit, and enjoyed his time as a school crossing guard for Lawrence Township. Archie was inducted into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Gene Autry was so moved by General MacArthur’s now-famous line (despite President Truman thinking the whole speech “nothing but a bunch of damn bullshit”), derived from a barracks ballad, that he came up with a version of his own, one that serves as a mighty epitaph for Archie McBride, and for all our heroes of the ring:

“Now somewhere, there stands the man
His duty o’er and won
The world will ne’er forget him
To him we say, ‘Well done.’”

Pretty good, except for that inconvenient line about the world not forgetting.

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  1. Clarence George 01:13pm, 09/10/2014

    Mr. McBride:  It was both my pleasure and my privilege.  That it brought joy to you and the rest of the McBride family means a great deal to me—a great deal.  Thanks so much for letting me know.

  2. John McBride 11:27am, 09/10/2014

    Clarence George - I thank you for writing this article about my late Father Archie McBride. This brought back many many memories not only for me but the rest of the family.

    Thank You

  3. Clarence George 03:04pm, 01/24/2014

    Thanks for your good post, Lindy.

    Yeah, Smith knocked McBride down five times at St. Nick’s.

    My colleague, Mike Casey, wrote an excellent article on Smith just a few months ago:

  4. Lindy Lindell 02:33pm, 01/24/2014

    I had no idea that Schulberg managed anyone, much less the infamous Archie McBride.  Then again, I knew nothing about 50s fighters’ handlers and promoters save for Chris Dundee, who promoted boxing in Norfolk, VA, my home town, and Jack Kearns, who later came to town with Kenny Lane.  I do remember the McBride v. “Boardwalk” Billy Smith fight, though.  Smith said after the fight that he was very apprehensive because when McBride took his robe off, Smith marveled at his dramatically masculine physique.  But once the fight started, Smith beat the bejesus out of McBride.

  5. Clarence George 08:54pm, 01/23/2014

    Quite right, Ted.  Lowry was the only man to go the distance with Marciano in two 10-rounders.

    Glad you liked it, Irish.  Yes, Hurricane decisioned Archie, though many felt he was robbed.

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 08:11pm, 01/23/2014

    Clarence George-I enjoyed this fitting remembrance very much….he fought two that later became Heavyweight Champions and he was able to hang with that jawbreaker, Bob Satterfield…..he also was in with Tommy “Hurricane” Jackson who as I recall was on the fast track to the title until Floyd Patterson derailed him…..not exactly chopped liver….at least by my standards.

  7. Ted 07:41pm, 01/23/2014

    Who gave The Rock all he could handle if I recall properly

  8. Clarence George 07:09pm, 01/23/2014

    Thanks very much, Ted.

    Archie, particularly in his post-boxing life, reminds me very much of Tiger Ted Lowry.

  9. Ted 06:53pm, 01/23/2014

    Archie is one of those guys you test someone on to see if they truly are a serious boxing fan. The two I use are Ibar Arrington and Boone Pultz. In fact, I am writing one on Ibar right now. Someone knows them and can discuss them, then that person is a serious fan. Archie can be added to that mix.

  10. Ted 05:28pm, 01/23/2014

    Lawrenceville, New Jersey is a nice town. I used to pass through it everyday on the way to Trenton from Princeton where I lived. Archie must have made out ok in the end.

    Very informative article.

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