Obituary: Archie Moore

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The Independent Culture
IT IS one of the boxing game's great adages that the measure of a boxer's spirit is his ability to accept defeat and, more importantly, to get up after a knockdown, writes Frank Gray. Archie Moore [obituary by Bob Mee, 11 December] fought many wars - notably against Rocky Marciano, whom he knocked down once but who rose up and pounded his way through Moore's pinpoint punching to win by a knockout in the ninth round.

Despite the defeat, Moore - who was 41 - proved he was far from finished when, on an arctic night in Montreal on 10 December 1958, he defended his light-heavyweight title against the Commonwealth champion Yvon Durelle, a French- Canadian from Baie Ste Anne, New Brunswick. The partisan crowd at the Montreal forum, mainly used for ice hockey, bayed for Moore's blood and were nearly given it in the opening seconds when Durelle felled Moore with a devastating right hand.

Moore struggled to his feet within a microsecond of being counted out, only to be knocked down twice more in that round, both for nine-counts. The screaming crowd of 18,000 - sensing a rare world title for a Canadian fighter - saw Moore knocked from rope to rope for five rounds, but then had to see the opportunity slip away as Moore put on what many regarded as one of boxing's greatest comebacks.

By the seventh round, the muscular Durelle was in retreat and by the 11th, when he was knocked out, he had been down four times. The two fought again the following August but Moore made no mistakes and dispatched Durelle in three rounds.

One of Moore's "tricks" was his famed wrap-around defence, in which, when under attack, he literally wrapped his arms around his face and peeked out from between his forearms. "You see, I was a bad little boy," he liked to tell people, "and my mama had to whup me a lot; this is the way I learned how to defend myself."

It was ironical, then, that Moore, long retired, was in the heavyweight champion George Foreman's corner when he fought Muhammad Ali in Zaire in 1974. But it was Ali, not Foreman, who employed a peek-a-boo defence, which he used while Foreman punched himself into exhaustion, leaving himself ripe for a knockout in the eighth round.

Moore has always lacked a good biographer. George Plimpton, the New York writer, editor and bon vivant, when asked if he might take it on, shook his head. He had written about Moore before - his 1959 account of his sparring session with Moore in which he paid the price for landing a lucky punch. "You know something," he recalled, "he broke my nose." He looked like it still hurt, 40 years on.