Each division in boxing got its start in England, all except the light heavyweights. Known in Europe as the cruiserweight division, it got its start in America in 1903. The division was never very popular in those days because the men who weighed between 160 and 175 lbs., the official weight for a light heavyweight, knew that only occasionally was the division a good money-making class. When fighters in the middleweight division reached the top of that class they usually tried to make the heavyweight ranks where they new the financial rewards were always greater. Only a few men fought in the 175 lb. weight class in the early days of boxing and many had to fight heavyweights just to get fights.
Looking back, some of the greatest boxers in the history of the game were known as light heavyweights. Bob Fitzsimmons, Philadelphia Jack O’ Brien, Billy Conn, Gene Tunney, the list goes on, but the greatest light heavyweight in the history of the sport was Archie Moore, “The Old Mongoose.”
Born in Benoit, Mississippi on 12/13/1913 (the year varies depending who you ask), Moore moved to St. Louis at a young age. Not unlike many other boxers, Moore was convicted of a crime when he was still very young. He was than sent to reform school for two years, which is where he learned to box. Moore then joined the Civilian Conservation Corps where he boxed in amateur tournaments while off duty. Moore turned pro as a middleweight in 1936 at 23 years of age, again his age at the time varied depending who you asked, his career spanning some 27 years. Over those 27 years Moore fought a total of 229 bouts, with a record of 194-26-8 and an amazing total of 141 knockouts!!! His knockout record still stands today as it is sure to do through the history of boxing.
During those 27 years Archie Moore was boxing’s Ambassador at Large to the world. Mainly due to the fact that Moore had many times been passed over for a title fight in this country, he traveled the world over from Argentina to Australia, Stuttgart, Tasmania, Rome and Uruguay, from Manila to Hope, Arkansas. Having moved to the light heavyweight division in 1945, Moore was ranked by Ring magazine as a top 10 contender every year from 1945 to 1951, but was still passed over for a title fight. Finally in 1952, 39 year old Archie Moore was given a title fight at an age when most fighters would have long since been retired.
The light heavyweight title was held by Joey Maxim when Moore finally got his chance for a title fight. The fight was held in Moore’s hometown of St. Louis in front of a crowd of almost 13,000 fans. Archie Moore attacked Maxim relentlessly for 15 rounds, easily winning the decision. Moore held the light heavyweight title for the next six years.
In 1955 Archie Moore decided to challenge Rocky Marciano for the heavyweight championship of the world. In a battle of knockdowns held in Yankee Stadium, Marciano was the last man standing in the ninth round maintaining his unbeaten record over Archie Moore. After Marciano retired Archie Moore challenged Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight championship but was KOed in five rounds.
Wherever his travels took him, Archie Moore was a true diplomat. Once asked by President Eisenhower if he was a Democrat or Republican, Moore simply replied, “I’m a diplomat.” His diplomacy carried over in the ring as well. Archie Moore was stripped of his light heavyweight title belt when he took on the heavyweights. The light heavyweight title was than held by the much younger Tony Anthony. While matched with Anthony in an attempt to regain the light heavyweight crown on September 20, 1957, Moore actually talked Anthony out of the title.
All through the early rounds Moore keep telling Anthony, “You’re looking great. Keep up what you’re doing. You’re the next champion!” In the sixth and seventh rounds Anthony took a terrible battering, the referee stopped the fight in the seventh round when Moore re-claimed the light heavyweight title.
In October of 1960 the National Boxing Association again lifted Archie Moore’s light heavyweight title due to inactivity. It named Harold Johnson of Philadelphia as their champion after knocking out Jess Bowdry in a fight in Miami Beach, February 7th, 1961. At the time Moore was still recognized as world champion by every other boxing commission. Moore had beaten Johnson in 4 out of 5 fights between 1949 and 1954.
Another milestone in Moore’s carrier came on November 15th of 1962 when Archie Moore, one month and one year before his 50th birthday fought Cassius Clay in Los Angeles, California. Moore was KOed in the 4th round but became the only man to have fought both Rocky Marciano and Cassius Clay in his 27 year carrier.oore retired from boxing four months later on March, 15, Th 1963. Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990, Archie Moore passed away at the age of 84 in 1998.