18. Archie Moore Vs Yvon Durelle I
December 10, 1958
Venue: Montreal Forum
There were several great Black fighters during the 1940s that were denied world title opportunities. The most blatant examples occurred in the Light Heavyweight division as legendary fighters such as Eddie Booker, Holman Williams, Ezzard Charles, Lloyd Marshall and Archie Moore were denied title shots. They were denied because of the color of their skin and not because of their fighting ability. The only African-American fighter to receive a title shot during this time period was a second rate fighter owned by the mob named Billy Fox. Gus Lesnevich and Freddie Mills, the 175-pound champions, were allowed to avoid the aforementioned fighters. It wasn’t until Joey Maxim became World Light Heavyweight in 1950 that the unofficial ban on the world champion fighting Black fighters was lifted. Maxim had lost to Marshall and three times to Charles before he became champion. He had no qualms about defending against great Black fighters. He defeated the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson in 1952 when Robinson, after pitching a near shutout, collapsed due to 100 plus degree temperature and was unable to come out for the 14th round. Maxim’s next defense would be against a then either 36-or-39-year old Moore. Moore defeated Maxim and began a memorable title reign.
Moore had held the 175-pound title for six years before defending against the 29-year-old Canadian Yvon Durelle. Durelle was a popular power puncher in his native country, but was considered a huge underdog against the over-40-year-old Moore. Seconds into the fight, Durelle landed a spectacular right cross that knocked Moore down. Moore barely got up at nine. Durelle swarmed all over Moore and knocked him down two more times with his potent right hand. Moore barely survived a round in which he was out on his feet when the round ended. The next two rounds saw Moore box from the outside and not do much in order to clear his head from the shellacking he absorbed in round one. Round four was the first time Moore began clicking offensively as he landed several combinations on Durelle. Moore’s hard-to-hit defensive posture of crossing his arms was also beginning to make the Canadian miss. “The Old Mongoose,” as he was aptly named because of his unorthodox defensive style, was all the way back.
Durelle began round five like he did round one, knocking Moore down with a thudding right cross. This time, Moore quickly recovered and late in the round hurt Durelle with a right cross of his own. Round six saw Moore control the fight in the middle of the ring, landing beautiful combinations while fending off Durelle’s punches with his unique defensive style. It was more of the same in round seven and then late in the round, Moore knocked Durelle down for the first time with his own right cross. Moore landed several rapid combinations that hurt Durelle again as the round ended. For a man in his early-to-mid 40’s, Moore was a marvel to watch fight.
Moore continued his wonderful display of boxing for a man his age throughout the next three rounds. It was a joy to see Moore standing right in front of Durelle, doubling and tripling his jab, and landing crisp rights and lefts off his jab. It was such a combination that knocked down Durelle late in the 10th round. Durelle went back to his corner a beaten man. It was just a matter of time before the old man would finish off his younger challenger.
Durelle came straight at Moore to begin the 11th round. Moore deftly avoided the challenger and landed a big counter right. After landing several more rights, Durelle went down again. He barely got up at the count of nine. Seconds later, Moore landing a picture perfect left hook, right cross combination that put Durelle away for good. Former Heavyweight Champion of the World and referee Jack Sharkey counted to 10 and Moore had the most dramatic win of his career. In a rematch eight months later, Moore had already figured Durelle out and blasted him in three rounds.
After his two defeats to Moore, Durelle won eight of his last eleven fights before retiring in 1964 at the age of 35. In 1977, outside a night club he owned in New Brunswick, Durelle shot a man to death. His lawyer, Frank McKenna, successfully got Durelle acquitted as the jury found him innocent by the way of self defense. McKenna wound later become the Premier of New Brunswick. After years of battling Parkinson’s disease, Durelle died due to complications from a stroke on January 6, 2007 at the age of 77.
Moore held the 175-pound world title until being stripped in 1962. He would be a young Cassius Clay’s first trainer, but was fired because he tried to make Clay do chores around Moore’s house as part of his training regiment. His last “real” professional fight occurred on November 15, 1962 when the aforementioned Clay gave him a one-sided beating before knocking him out in the fourth round. Moore was anywhere from 46 to 50 years old when he finally retired. There were several conflicting reports as to exactly what year he was born.
Moore had a wonderful life after boxing. He helped future heavyweight greats George Foreman and Ken Norton incorporate his defensive stance into their fighting styles and he appeared in several motion pictures. Moore died on December 9, 1998 of a heart attack, four days before his birthday. He would’ve been approximately 82 to 86 years old at the time of his death.