|Born||December 13, 1913 or 1916|
|Died||December 9, 1998|
|Total Fights||221* (1 No Decision)|
|Knockouts||145* (* Varied figures)|
|Titles Won||Light Heavyweight|
Archie Moore, born Archibald Wright (December 13, 1913 or 1916 – December 9, 1998), was a light heavyweight world boxing champion. He was also a social figure, a television actor, and a man who became involved in African-American causes once his days as a fighter were finally over. His nickname was "The Old Mongoose." He holds the record for the most knockouts by any boxer, at 145.
Some consider Moore to be greatest light-heavyweight of all time, with a career spanning from 1936 to 1963. He never lost his crown in the ring, although he unsuccessfully challenged twice for the heavyweight title.
In 1960, Moore began acting, with the role of the runaway slave, Jim, in Michael Curtiz's film of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. He won positive reviews for his sympathetic portrayal of Jim, which some viewers still consider the best interpretation of this much-filmed role. Moore would go on to other roles in a variety of television shows and films.
In later life, Moore was an active trainer of many top fighters. He also ran a successful athletic program among disadvantaged youth in San Diego, California. He died four days short of his eighty-fifth (or eighty-second) birthday, in his adopted home of San Diego.
Archibald Lee Wright was the son of Thomas Wright, a farm laborer and drifter, and Lorena Wright. He always insisted that he was born in 1916 in Collinsville, Illinois, but his mother told reporters that he was actually born in 1913 in Benoit, Mississippi. His father abandoned the family when Archie was an infant. Unable to provide for him and his older sister, his mother gave them into the care of an uncle and aunt, Cleveland and Willie Pearl Moore, who lived in St. Louis, Missouri. Archie later explained why he was given their surname: "It was less questions to be called Moore."
He attended segregated all-black schools in St. Louis, including Lincoln High School, although he never graduated. His uncle and aunt provided him with a stable upbringing, but after his uncle died in a freak accident around 1928, Moore began running with a street gang. One of his first thefts was a pair of oil lamps from his home, which he sold so that he would have money to buy boxing gloves. He later recalled of his stealing: "It was inevitable that I would be caught. I think I knew this even before I started, but somehow the urge to have a few cents in my pocket made me overlook this eventuality". After he was arrested for attempting to steal change from a motorman's box on a streetcar, he was sentenced to a three-year term at a reform school in Booneville, Missouri. He was released early from the school for good behavior after serving twenty-two months.
Around 1933 Moore joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, working for the forestry division at a camp in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Having determined to become a boxer, he decided to make his work at the camp a form of training. The captain of the camp permitted him to organize a boxing team, which competed in Golden Gloves tournaments in southern Missouri and Illinois. Many of his fights occurred in a racially charged atmosphere.
Moore was married twice. Moore and his first wife, Elizabeth A. Thorton, had two children: Archie Moore, Jr. and Elizabeth. He married his second wife Joan Hardy in 1956, and they had five children: Reena Marie, J'Marie, Hardy, D'Angelo, and Anthony.
In 1997, Moore's daughter, J'Marie, became the first daughter of a famous boxer to become a professional boxer herself.
Archie Moore died of heart failure in 1998 at age 84. He was cremated and is interred in a niche at Cypress View Mausoleum and Crematory, San Diego, California.
Early years as a boxer
Moore began his professional boxing career boxing all but one of his 12 bouts in San Diego in 1938. In 1939, he fought eight bouts, with five wins, two losses, and one no contest. One loss was to fringe contender Teddy Yarosz, and the no contest was against Jack Coggins, in eight rounds. In 1940, he went on a tour of Australia, fighting in Melbourne, Tasmania, Adelaide, and Sydney. He won all of his seven bouts there, including six by knockout. Upon returning to the United States, he defeated Pancho Ramirez by a knockout in five, but lost to Shorty Hogue on a six-round decision. He had four fights in 1941, in a period during which he went 2-1-1, and he a draw with Eddie Booker. By then, however, he had suffered several stomach ulcers, with their resulting operations. He then announced his retirement from boxing.
The career of one of boxing's all-time greats might thus have ended in ignomy, but in 1942, Moore was back in the ring. He won his first six bouts that year, including a second-round knockout over Hogue in a rematch, and a ten-round decision over Jack Chase. Then, he met Booker in a rematch, and they had the same result as in their previous meeting: a ten-round draw. Moore fought seven more bouts in 1943, winning five and losing two. He both won and lost the California State Middleweight title against Chase, both by 15-round decisions, and then beat Chase again in his last bout of that year, by a ten-round decision. He also lost a decision to Aaron Wade that year. In 1944, he had nine bouts, going 7-2. The last of these fights marked his debut on the Atlantic Coast. That year, his opposition level began to improve, and he beat Jimmy Hayden by a knockout, lost to Charlie Burley by a decision, and lost to Booker by a knockout in eight.
Moore then won his first eight bouts of 1945, impressing Atlantic-Coast boxing experts, and earning a fight with contender Jimmy Bivins, who defeated Moore by a knockout in six at Cleveland. Moore returned to the Eastern Seaboard, and fought five more times before that year was over. He met, among others, Holman Williams during that span, losing a ten-round decision, but knocking him out in 11 in the rematch.
By 1946, Moore had moved up in weight to the light-heavyweight division, and he went 5-2-1 that year, beating contender Curtis Sheppard, but losing to future world heavyweight champion Ezzard Charles by a decision in ten, as well as drawing with old nemesis, Chase. By then, Moore began complaining that none of the boxing's world champions would risk their titles against him. The year 1947 witnessed several rematches for Moore. He went 7-1 for the year; his lone loss being to Charles. He beat Chase by a knockout in nine, Sheppard by a decision in ten, and Bivins by a knockout in nine. He also defeated Bert Lydell, by a decision in ten.
Moore had an impressive 14 fights in 1948. He had several losses however—to Charles again by a knockout in nine, to Leonard Morrow by a knockout in the first, to Henry Hall by a decision in ten, and to Lloyd Gibson by a disqualification in four. But he also beat Ted Lowry, by a decision in ten and bested Hall in a rematch. In 1949, Moore had 13 more bouts, going 12-1. He defeated Alabama Kid twice and beat Bob Satterfeld by a knockout in three, Bivins by a knockout in eight, future light-heavyweight champion Harold Johnson by a decision, Bob Sikes by a knockout in three, and Phil Muscato by a decision. He lost to Clinton Bacon by a disqualification in six. In 1949, Moore slowed down, taking only two fights and winning both, including a ten-round decision in a rematch with Lydell.
In 1951, Moore was once again extremely active, boxing and incredible 18 times with a record of 16-1-1. He knocked out Bivins in nine, and split two decisions with Johnson. Several of these fights were held in Argentina and one was in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he defeated Vicente Quiroz by a knockout in six.
World champion at 39
In 1952, Moore reached the top of his game. After beating Johnson, Jimmy Slade and Clinton Bacon, Moore was finally given an opportunity for the world title by light-heavyweight champion Joey Maxim, who had just defeated Sugar Ray Robinson. Moore became world champion by beating Maxim by a decision in 15 rounds, consistently landing powerful right hands throughout the fight and hurting Maxim several times. At the age of 39, Moore had finally reached his dream of becoming a world boxing champion, 16 years after beginning his professional-boxing career.
He won all nine of his bouts in 1953, including a ten-round, non-title win against heavyweight contender Nino Valdes of Cuba and a 15-round decision over Maxim in a rematch to retain the belt.
In 1954, Moore had four more fights, retaining the title in his third fight with Maxim and versus Harold Johnson, whom he knocked out in 14. He also beat Bob Baker that year. In 1955, he beat Valdes again, and best Bobo Olson to retain the title. Olson, the world middleweight champion, was coming off a decision victory over Maxim, but was unsuccessful in challenging Moore.
Moore then moved up in weight again and challenged the great Rocky Marciano, the world heavyweight champion. Moore dropped Marciano in the second round, but Marciano recovered and knocked Moore down five times, finally knocking him out in the ninth to retain the belt. Marciano would retire after this fight, which was his sixth title defense.
In 1956, Moore went back to the light-heavyweight division, and won 13 fights in a row, including a ten-round knockout to retain the world's crown against Yolande Pompey in London. He then moved up in weight once again, and challenged for the vacant world heavyweight crown. Moore lost to Floyd Patterson by a knockout in five. Patterson made history that night, becoming, at the age of 21, the youngest world heavyweight champion in history, a record which he would hold until 1986.
Moore went down to the light-heavyweight once again, and won all six of his bouts during 1957. He retained the title against Tony Anthony by a knockout in seven, and had two fights in Germany and one in Canada. In 1958, Moore had ten fights, going 9-0-1 during that span. His fight with Yvon Durelle in particular, was of note. Defending his world light-heavyweight title in Montreal, he was dropped three times in round one, and once in round five, but recovered to drop Durelle in round ten and won by a knockout in the eleventh. In 1959, he only had two bouts, beating Sterling Davis by a knockout in three, and then beating Durelle, also by a knockout in three, in a rematch, to once again retain his light-heavyweight title.
In 1960, Moore was stripped of his world light-heavyweight title for competing in the heavyweight division, but he won three of his four bouts that year, his lone loss coming versus Giulio Rinaldi by a decision in ten at Rome. The National Boxing Association re-instated him as world light-heavyweight champion in 1961, and he won two fights before defending his crown for what would turn out to be his last time. He beat Rinaldi by a 15-round decision to retain the belt. In his last fight that year, he once again ventured into the heavyweights, and met Pete Rademacher, who earlier had challenged Floyd Patterson for the world title in his first professional bout. Moore beat Rademacher by a knockout in nine.
Moore was stripped again of his world light-heavyweight title in 1962, this time for good. He decided to campaign exclusively as a heavyweight from there on. Moore beat Alejandro Lavorante by a knockout in ten and Howard King by a knockout in one at Tijuana. Then he drew with former world light-heavyweight champion Willie Pastrano.
In his last fight of note, Moore faced Cassius Clay, then a young heavyweight out of Louisville. Moore had been Clay's trainer for a time, but Clay became dissatisfied and left Moore because of Moore's attempts to change his style, and his insistence that Clay do the dishes and help clean gym floors. In the days before the fight, Clay predicted that "Archie Moore/Must fall in four." Moore replied by saying that he had perfected a new punch for the match: The Lip-Buttoner. Just as Clay predicted, however, Moore was beaten by a knockout in four rounds.
After one more fight—in 1963 against Mike DiBiase in Phoenix, which Moore won by a knockout in the third round—Moore announced his retirement for good.
Instead of fighting with fists raised at his opponents as was the overwhelming style of his day, Moore often would cross his arm and form his famed "armadillo curtain," a style that enabled him to absorb many punches without serious damage. This tactic also helped "wade" into the area to damage an opponent, earning him the nickname, "The Mongoose," and in the later part of his career, "The Old Mongoose."
Moore would often feign nonchalance, weave and bob, and then punish an opponent with his sharp right jab. He was a one-of-a-kind even in his attire, wearing long shorts decades before today's NBA players made them popular.
After taking off the gloves
In 1960, Moore was chosen to play the role of the runaway slave Jim in Michael Curtiz's film of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, opposite Eddie Hodges as Huck. Moore won positive reviews for his sympathetic portrayal of Jim, which some viewers still consider the best interpretation of this much-filmed role. Moore did not pursue a full-time career as an actor, but he did appear in a number of small roles on television, including episodes of Family Affair, Perry Mason, Wagon Train, Batman, and the soap opera One Life To Live. He also played a boxer in a TV skit with Red Skelton. He made a brief return to film in 1975, playing a chef in Breakheart Pass with Charles Bronson, and had a cameo role as himself in the 1982 Jamaa Fanaka film Penitentiary II, along with Leon Isaac Kennedy and Mr. T.
Moore remained active in the boxing game as a trainer in the 1960s and 1970s. He invested in his own training camp located just northwest of San Diego, California, which he christened "The Salt Mine." His most well-known client was George Foreman, whom Moore accompanied to the famous "Rumble in the Jungle" fight with Muhammad Ali in 1974.
Moore also devoted much of his time to philanthropic work after he retired from the ring. In 1967, he founded the Any Boy Can (ABC) program in San Diego to give underprivileged youth the opportunity to participate in sports programs. He played a vital role in the ABC program as a mentor, coach, and inspirational speaker to its participants. In 1968, Moore received the key to the city from the mayor of San Diego in recognition of his work through the ABC program. Moore co-wrote a book detailing the ABC program, published in 1971 as Any Boy Can: The Archie Moore Story.
Archie Moore was possibly the greatest light-heavyweight of all time, with a career spanning from 1936 to 1963. In 228 recorded bouts during his remarkable career in the ring, Moore was only stopped seven times. He is also known for his post-boxing work as an actor, trainer, and philanthropist for disadvantaged youth. His accomplishments include:
- One of a handful of boxers whose careers spanned four decades, with a final record of 199 wins, 24 losses, 9 draws, and 1 no contest, with 145 official knockout wins
- More known knockouts than any other boxer in history
- Oldest boxer to win the world light-heavyweight crown
- Believed to be the only boxer to have fought professionally in the eras of Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, and Muhammad Ali
- Received the key to the city of San Diego in 1965
- Inducted into the United States Boxing Hall of Fame in 1966
- Chosen as the "Man of The Year" by Listen Magazine in 1970
- Elected to the St. Louis City Boxing Hall of Fame in 1985
- Received the Rocky Marciano Memorial Award in the city of New York in 1988
- Inducted into the International Boxing Hall Of Fame in 1990, as one of its original members
- Inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame in 2002
- California Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee in 2006
- Named Ring Magazine's fourth "best puncher of all time" in 2003
- Cayton, Bill. Archie Moore versus Floyd Patterson. Cayton Sports., Inc., 2001. ISBN 978-0970837189
- Fitzgerald, Mike. The Ageless Warrior: The Life of Boxing Legend Archie Moore. Sports Publishing, 2004. ISBN 978-1582612553
- Gale Reference Team. Biography—Archie Moore (1916-1998). Thomas Gale, 2007. (HTML-Digital)
- Moore, Archie. The Archie Moore Story. The Sportsmans Book Club, 1962. ASIN B000SB32ZJY
- Moore, Archie, and Leonard B. Pearl. Any Boy Can: The Archie Moore Story. Prentice-Hall, 1971. ISBN 978-0130385628
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