“The Mongoose” Archie Moore!
Archie Moore (born Archibald Lee Wright; December 13, 1916 – December 9, 1998) was an American professional boxer and the longest reigning World Light Heavyweight Champion of all time (December 1952 – May 1962). He had one of the longest professional careers in the history of the sport, competing from 1935 to 1963. Nicknamed “The Mongoose”, and then “The Old Mongoose” in the latter half of his career, Moore was a highly strategical and defensive boxer, with a great chin and durability. As of October 2020, BoxRec ranks Moore as the third greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all time. He also ranks fourth on The Ring‘s list of “100 greatest punchers of all time”. Moore was also a trainer for a short time after retirement, training Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and James Tillis.
A native of Benoit, Mississippi, Moore was raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in poverty. A victim of racism for much of his career, Moore was denied a shot at the world title for over ten years, and spent many of those years fighting on the road with little to show for it. An important figure in the American black community, he became involved in African American causes once his days as a fighter were over. He also established himself as a successful character actor in television and film. Moore died in his adopted home of San Diego, California; he was 81 years old.
1952 was one of the most important years in Moore’s life. After beating Johnson, heavyweight contenders Jimmy Slade, Bob Dunlap, and Clarence Henry and light heavyweight Clinton Bacon (knocked out in four in a rematch), Moore was finally given an opportunity at age 36 to fight for the title of World Light Heavyweight Champion against future IBHOF honoree Joey Maxim. Maxim had just defeated the great Sugar Ray Robinson by a technical knockout in 14 rounds, forcing Robinson to quit in his corner due to heat exhaustion. Against Maxim, Moore consistently landed powerful right hands, hurting him several times en route to a fifteen-round decision. After sixteen long years, he had finally achieved his dream. The next year, Moore won all nine of his bouts, including a 10-round, non-title win against then fringe heavyweight contender Nino Valdez of Cuba and a 15-round decision over Maxim in a rematch to retain the belt. He made two more bouts in Argentina before the end of the year.
In 1960, Moore was stripped of his World Light Heavyweight title by the National Boxing Association (NBA), but continued to be recognized by most major boxing authorities including the New York State Athletic Commission and The Ring Magazine. Moore won three of his four bouts in 1960, one by decision against Buddy Turman in Dallas, his lone loss coming in a ten-round decision versus Giulio Rinaldi in Rome. In 1961, he defeated Turman again by decision in Manila, Philippines before defending his Lineal World Light Heavyweight Championship for what would be the last time, beating 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, a man who had made history earlier in his career by becoming the first man ever to challenge for a world title in his first professional bout (when he lost to Patterson by a knockout in six). Moore beat Rademacher by a knockout in nine.
In 1962, the remaining boxing commissions that had continued to back Moore as the World Light Heavyweight Champion withdrew their recognition. He campaigned exclusively as a heavyweight from then on, and beat Alejandro Lavorante by a knockout in 10 and Howard King by a knockout in one round in Tijuana. He then drew against future World Light Heavyweight Champion Willie Pastrano in a 10-round heavyweight contest. On the posters advertising that fight, Moore was billed as the “World Light Heavyweight Champion.” The bout took place in California, which had not yet withdrawn recognition from Moore at the time the Moore-Pastrano fight was signed. By the time the bout took place, the California commission, like New York, Massachusetts, the EBU and Ring Magazine, had recognized Harold Johnson, who had beaten Doug Jones 16 days earlier, as the new Light Heavyweight Champion. Johnson had reigned as the NBA (WBA) Champion since February 7, 1961.
Then, in his last fight of note, Moore faced a young heavyweight out of Louisville named Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali). 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 dishes and help clean gym floors. In the days before the fight, Clay had rhymed that “Archie Moore…Must fall in four.” Moore replied that he had perfected a new punch for the match: The Lip-Buttoner. Nonetheless, as Clay predicted, Moore was beaten by a knockout in four rounds. Moore is the only man to have faced both Rocky Marciano and Muhammad Ali. After one more fight in 1963, a third-round knockout win over Mike DiBiase in Phoenix, Moore announced his retirement from boxing, for good.