Living to a ripe old age and still very sharp with it, “Ageless” Archie Moore passed away 22 years ago yesterday, December 9th, 1998. One of the most cherished fighters in boxing history, Moore was a simply fantastic fighter. “The Ole’ Mongoose” scored a record number of knockouts, his punch precision the stuff of legend. And Moore could take it as well as give it. If he had to. Moore knew how much damage one man could inflict on another with his fists and he was keen to take as little punishment as possible. That said, Moore said years into his retirement how it is “every fighter’s goal to engage in a give and take, knockdown, drag out brawl.” And on this day in 1958, Moore, then aged 42, engaged in a knockdown-filled slugfest for the ages.
Moore, still the light-heavyweight king, this after two failed attempts to win the heavyweight title (Archie being stopped by Rocky Marciano and then Floyd Patterson), signed on to defend the crown against French-Canadian, Yvonne Durelle. And Moore, fighting away from home in Quebec, Canada, had to call on all his powers to get the stunning victory. Durelle was soon knocking the light-heavyweight king down again and again.
In what turned out to be a truly great fight, Durelle stunned Moore in the first round, knocking him down three times, the challenger appearing to be a certain winner. Former heavyweight champion Jack Sharkey had a tough time keeping track of all the knockdowns, as plentiful as they were on this night. Somehow, the defending champion managed to survive the opener and then, incredibly, claw his way back into the fight. Moore was put down again in round five but by now Durelle was tiring and Archie made him pay for letting him off the hook. Moore floored Durelle in the seventh and tenth rounds before ending matters in the 11th round of one of the greatest fights of that era and of any era. Between them, Moore and Durelle exchanged an astonishing eight knockdowns.
The fight would be talked about for years. Archie Moore had won by way of the closest thing the sport of boxing has ever seen to a miracle comeback. Thankfully, we can watch this fight all these years later. Moore, at the time of the war with Durelle, had already done enough to be certain he would go down as an all-time great. The win, the improbable, back from the brink win, cemented Archie’s greatness. The two fought a return in the late summer of the following year, once again in Quebec. This time, however, Moore crushed Durelle in just three rounds, sending his rival down four times in the round. “It was a hard fight, I just made it look easy,” Moore quipped
It’s little wonder Moore made a great boxing trainer once he had hung up his own gloves. After all, he’d been through, Archie had so much precious knowledge to pass on to other fighters – George Foreman (career-one and career-two) being one special fighter to have benefitted from Moore’s words of wisdom. Archie had well over 200 pro bouts during his stupendous career, exiting with a ledger that reads, jaw-droppingly, 186-23-10(132). And Moore defeated excellent fighters such as, Joey Maxim, Bobo Olsen, Harold Johnson, Nino Valdes, Jimmy Bivins, Bob Satterfield and Holman Williams.
It could certainly be argued, though, how Moore gave the world his greatest ever fight the night he somehow managed to climb out of the jaws of defeat to knock out Yvonne Durelle.