It was late July 1956 and world light heavyweight champion Archie Moore had arrived in Toronto after training hard for 3 weeks in Gravenhurst in preparation for a heavyweight boxing match with James J. Parker of Barrie on July 25th at the Maple Leaf stadium at Bathurst & Fleet streets. The build-up to the match was far more intense than what would play out in the bout itself.
Aside from the hype and “benefit of youth” factor, any savvy boxing observer did not expect Parker to offer anything other than token opposition. But back then, Toronto was a boxing mad town. Two years earlier, the set-to between Canadian heavyweight champ Earl Walls and Parker at Maple Leaf Gardens attracted a crowd of 15,000. It ended in a draw.
The Old Mongoose brought with him a staggering resume: 154 fights since his 1936 pro debut with 129 wins, 20 losses, and 88 knockouts. In November 1955, Moore gave Marciano all he could handle before getting pounded to the canvas in round 8 and falling to the Brockton Bomber. Since then, Moore had gone on a tear – winning 9 consecutive matches, including 6 via knockout. Negotiations were already underway with Floyd Patterson’s manager Cus D’Amato to establish a new champion in wake of Marciano’s retirement.
In contrast, Parker had only fought 3 times since meeting Earl Walls. Moore and Parker shared two common opponents; Jimmy Slade and Nino Valdez from Cuba. Both had decisioned Slade while Moore notched a victory against Valdez who had decisioned Parker. With 20 years of ring experience at the highest levels, Moore was a solid 4 to 1 betting favorite.
The scrap was bankrolled by wealthy Toronto mining executive and Parker’s manager Dave Rush. Legendary British boxing promoter Jack Solomons (26 world title fights to his credit) wanted to stage the match in London, England, but got outbid by Rush who brought in Solomons as the co-promoter. The stadium was rented in negotiations with Rudy Schaffer of the baseball Maple Leafs.
No stone was left unturned in the flashy theatrics of the pre-bout ceremonies:a bagpipe band, an honor guard of soldiers, a party of the 48th Highlanders in full dress uniforms with rifles and fixed bayonets, a fanfare of trumpets, searchlights following Moore as he walked along a red carpet from the dressing room to the ring. Parker was accorded similar whoop-de-doo to mark his entrance.
Well-known boxing celebrities and public dignitaries were arrayed at ringside: Ring magazine founder Nat Fleischer, Rocky Marciano, IBC president Jim Norris, veteran fight manager Jack Kearns, Toronto mayor Nathan Phillips, Ontario premier Leslie Frost, the American ambassador to Canada, and Dr, Joyce Brothers who had just won the $64,000 show grand prize.
Twenty-five sportswriters arrived from the U.S to cover the fight. Time magazine, Life magazine, Sports Illustrated, the New York Post, United Press were among those that sent men to cover the fight.
The fight turned into a bloody affair with all the red spurting from Parker’s face. His game plan to feel out Moore for the first 5 round and then start throwing with mean intentions never panned out. Even though he outweighed Moore by 26 pounds (211 versus 186). Parker was already in trouble from the very first round, and things went downhill from there. Archie’s left was in Parker’s kisser all night. After taking a battering for 26 minutes, the defenceless Parker was saved from further punishment when referee Billy Burke put a halt to proceedings in the 9th round. There were 19,832 admissions that paid $148,500 (Moore netted 35% of the gross).
There were 4 preliminaries, but the less said about them the better.