Archie Moore is recognised by all as one of the greatest light-heavyweights of all time, as one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time. And with good reason. Moore could do it all:
Moore was a tremendous puncher (his all time record for most KO’s scored by a world champion will almost certainly never be beaten, the number a truly jaw-dropping 132 KO’s), Moore was as smart and as savvy as they come (how he could set traps during a fight), Archie had an incredible work ethic in training (Moore worked hard in the gym, while legend has it he also borrowed some odd eating habits from Aborigines he met in Australia, these methods helping him make weight and not be drained), and Moore had his famed cross-armed defence, this serving him well in so many fights.
Moore is also looked at by many as the greatest “old fighter” of them all. Moore had to wait an inordinate amount of time before getting a world title shot, with “The Old Mongoose” being almost 40 years old before getting his shot. During his long and hugely eventful ring career – Moore fighting from 1935 to 1963, with him facing so many elite light-heavyweights and heavyweights – Archie gave us some special fights.
Yet for many, the “knockdown drag-out battle” (Archie’s words) Moore engaged in with Yvon Durelle on this day in 1958 stands as his most astonishing.
Moore, then aged 44, sporting a 174-21-0 ledger and making the eighth defence of the 175 pound crown he had won by defeating Joey Maxim in 1952, met Canadian champ Durelle in Montreal, Canada. Durelle was a 29 year old tough guy with a 78-19-2 record. Durelle, known as “The Fighting Fisherman,” would give Moore nothing but sheer hell during the action-packed, back and forth slugfest.
Moore was caught in the opening session by a Durelle right hand, the blow landing flush on the defending champ’s exposed jaw. Moore went down heavily, his head bouncing off the canvas not once but twice. Moore, laid on his back, looked all done. He was instead just getting going. An epic, straight-from-the-movies fight was about to stun the watching world. Moore, dazed and fighting on what looked like pure instinct, was downed again for a brief count. Durelle, rugged and hungry, then scored what looked like a finisher. Moore was blasted by another big right and this time he barely beat the count.
If the fight had been stopped right there, not too many people would have complained (or maybe this is going by today’s standards and expectations). Moore managed to fight back just before the bell came, ending a red-hot round.
The two men fought hard and on pretty much even terms during the next three rounds, before round five exploded. Durelle dropped Moore once more, his right serving him well again. This time, Moore really did look “gone.” This session saw some furious trading, with both men looking to throw bombs. Incredibly, Moore took the initiative in the sixth. Durelle, surely massively deflated but not showing it, continued to dig in, looking for the fight ending punch he must have felt he had found two or three times prior to this point.
Moore turned things around big time in the 7th, when he dropped the challenger with a right hand of his own. The eighth saw Durelle press forward, still strong yet almost certainly thinking his big chance (or chances) of victory had passed. Durelle had some success in the ninth, with Moore’s ability to take a shot to the head as well as to the body tested. Then, in the tenth, Moore unleashed deadly accurate shots to Durelle’s head. It was all Moore now, with the younger man all but exhausted. His nose bleeding, Durelle was decked by a clean left hand. The bell came, saving Durelle.
Moore put the finishing touches to his comeback in the 11th, by scoring two more knockdowns, the second one ending the fight as a drained and battered Durelle was counted out by former heavyweight champ Jack Sharkey.
Moore would look back on his back from the brink win with delight and ultimate satisfaction for the rest of his long life. The two met again, but this time Moore won with ease, scoring a third round stoppage. “It was a hard fight, I just made it look easy,” Moore said after the return, giving us one of his many great lines.
What Archie Moore did on this day 64 years ago really did defy logic.