The great Bob Dylan, though no massive boxing fan, was nonetheless moved to put his formidable writing pen down in tribute to two boxing greats. You know the simply brilliant ‘Hurricane,’ from 1975, this a hurtling tribute to Rubin Carter. But you might not be as familiar with the song Dylan penned in 1963, this in tribute to featherweight champ Davey Moore.
Moore, who tragically lost his life on this day in 1963, four days after his KO loss to Sugar Ramos, in a featherweight unification clash, left us as at age 29. Later that year, Dylan was moved to pen the song ‘Who Killed Davey Moore?’ It remains a song of poignancy.
Moore, who boxed on the 1952 US Olympic team in Helsinki, went pro in May of 1953, and the man from Lexington, Kentucky fought well as he was matched tough. It was in December of 1954, when he had forged a 14-2-1 record, that Davey won his first title – this the Ohio featherweight title. By 1958, Moore had fought the likes of Leo Carter, Isidro Martinez, Lauro Salas, Kid Anahuac and Ricardo Moreno.
Then, in March of 1959, a 25 year old Moore beat the great Hogan “Kid” Bassey to win the NBA and Ring featherweight titles. Moore repeated his win over Bassey in a rematch; both wins coming via stoppage, both wins taking place in LA. Moore, as was the way in those days, then engaged in a number of non-title bouts, winning five, losing one.
Moore then retained his world title in Japan, this by outpointing Kazuo Takayama in August of 1960. Davey, in his prime, went on to pick up four non-title wins; these fights taking place in Mexico, France, Spain and Italy. By this stage of his career, Davey had fought in numerous countries, his a truly world stage ring career.
Moore, at just 27, had compiled a 57-6-1 ledger by the summer of 1962, and he had retained his world title five times. It was then, on March 21 of 1963, when Moore fought Sugar Ramos at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
The fight, ending in the 10th round, was brutal. A hurt Moore went down in the fateful round, his neck hitting the bottom rope, his brain stem being severely damaged due to whiplash. Moore got back up and resumed fighting, astonishingly seeing it out to the end of the round. Moore was prevented from coming out for the 11th round.
Moore, his brain in a terrible state, somehow managed to give a lucid mid-ring interview, before he tragically fell into a coma minutes later, this in his dressing room. Davey never regained consciousness and he sadly died 75 hours after the fight. During this time, the Pope, while praying for Moore’s life, declared the sport “barbaric.”
Moore, his body laying in state, was paid kinder tribute by some 10,000 fans and admirers, who passed by his coffin.
Dylan’s tribute song, asking the question as it does, posits the idea that Davey could have been saved. Yet the referee in any boxing match has the single most tasking job in all of sports. The fight of 60 years ago is testament to this fact.
Davey Moore died doing what he loved. He was a fighter.