May 1946: The Ezzard Charles – Archie Moore Rivalry Begins

Who do you rank as the greatest light-heavyweight of all time? Chances are, if you are of a certain age, you will say Archie Moore, or maybe Ezzard Charles.

There is no doubt about it, these two magnificent fighters were just that – magnificent. Today, if these two greats were fighting one another, if they were pitting their wits and their considerable skills against each other, if they were laying it all on the line, the fights would not only contest a world title of some kind, they would also be massive P-P-V events.

This was not the way of things back in the 1940s. WWII had just ended, times were hard, and neither Charles nor Moore had a shot at the world title in sight. Instead, they fought each other. Three times in all, Charles and Moore fought, each fight a ten-rounder. And on each occasion the same man walked away victorious.

Charles was 37-4-1 at the time of his first clash with Moore. Ezzard had rebounded from back-to-back defeats to Jimmy Bivins and Lloyd Marshall (of “Murderer’s Row” fame), winning seven on the spin. In his mid-twenties, Charles was approaching his peak. Moore was 80-12-5 at the time of his first battle with Charles, and Archie had also been in with Bivins and Marshall; beating Marshall but being KO’d by Bivins. Moore was (officially) 33 or 36, depending on your source.

Interestingly, Moore had also been handily beaten, in fact soundly beaten, by Charley Burley, this in 1944, whereas Charles had twice beaten the man many say is the greatest fighter never to have been granted a world title shot; this in 1942.

Charles and Moore met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Charles, boxing masterfully, won a unanimous decision. It turned out the two future legends had the closest fight of their eventual trilogy in the rematch, which came in May of the following year. By this time, Charles had avenged his losses to Bivins and Marshall; “The Cincinatti Cobra” knocking out Marshall and then decisioning and later taking out Bivins. After losing to Charles, Moore won two fights and he was held to a draw by both Billy Smith and Jack Chase, with “The Ol’ Mongoose” knocking Chase out in a rematch.

Charles-Moore II took place in Ezzard’s hometown of Cincinatti. This time the two greats were closer than close, with Ezzard winning a majority verdict. The third and final bout came in January of 1948.

By then, Moore had kept a clean sheet, winning five fights, including a revenge KO win over Bivins. By now, Moore was an amazing 84-12-7. Upon entering the third duel with Moore, Charles was sporting a 53-5-1 record and he had won seven out of eight, the loss coming to Elmer “Violent” Ray (a loss he would avenge at a later date).

Charles Vs. Moore III took place in Cleveland, Ohio.

This time, the action, the rivalry, was decided by a KO. The two men fought at an incredible pace, breath-taking even. It was nip and tuck, with Charles getting the better of it, just. In round eight, Moore came within a whisker of getting a knockout. Archie was successful in tagging Charles with a sizzling left hook, his adversary wobbled and in real trouble. But Charles, showing true greatness, managed to come back, scoring a series of left hooks of his own and then taking Archie out with a thunderous right hand.

The writers of the day referred to Charles’ right cross as “perfect.”

Both men would go on to try their hand at heavyweight, with Charles becoming champion. Moore was a long-reigning light-heavyweight king, but he could never master Charles. These two legends brought the greatness out of each other.

Charles finished with a 95-25-1(52) record. Ezzard passed away in 1975, aged just 53. Moore’s final numbers read a mind-boggling 186-23-10(132). Archie passed away in 1998, aged 84.