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Greatest Light Heavyweights In Boxing History: “The Old Mongoose” Archie Moore

archie moore

Boxing history is inundated with colorful characters throughout its storied history. When it comes to the 175 pound division, no fighter came close in terms of colorful antics than the fifth greatest Light Heavyweight of all-time, Archie Moore.

Moore’s actual age was never verified. By the time Archie moved up to 175 pounds in 1945, his alleged age ranged from 29-32 years old. Moore was a ferocious inside fighter with incredible power in both hands. He was also an incredibly skilled fighter for a man that stayed inside, as his innovative cross armed defense was successful in warding off several of his opponents punches. At 5’11, Moore was a decent sized 175 pounder, but, similar to a latter day James Toney, Moore was much more comfortable on offense inside the trenches. You would think a man with such an incredible skill set and personality would be the darling of the boxing world. Not if you were a Black man in the 1940s.

The entire decade of the 1940s saw great Black Light Heavyweights such as Ezzard Charles, Holman Williams, Lloyd Marshall, Jimmy Bivins, Jack Chase and Moore denied opportunities at fighting for the coveted 175 pound title. The two world champions that held the title the majority of the decade, Gus Lesnevich and Freddie Mills, didn’t have to worry about facing such an incredible array of talent due to America’s racist and fascist way of treating Blacks in the 1940s. Since the aforementioned group of great Black fighters couldn’t get a title shot, they all fought each other numerous times. Moore defeated all but one of these fighters: Ezzard Charles. Charles was a puzzle he never figured out. More on Charles in a later article.

It wasn’t until December 17, 1952 that someone from this incredible array of talent received a shot at the 175-pound title, the Old Mongoose himself. The night of December 17, 1952, the anywhere from 36-39 year old Moore put on a relentless display of aggression as he outworked and battered the defending champion Joey Maxim over the entire 15 rounds to become the Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion of the world.

It was the culmination of a seven year quest to win the championship. It would be the beginning of one of the most dominant title reigns in the history of the division. Moore held the title for over nine years and well into his alleged early-to-mid 40s. Along the way, he successfully defended the belt nine times which included two wins over Maxim, a win over future great 175-pound champion Harold Johnson and two wins against the popular French Canadian Yvon Durelle. The first fight with Durelle was the only title defense Moore came close to losing as he was dropped three times in the opening stanza before roaring back to violently knockout Durelle in the 11th round. Moore was finally stripped of the title in 1962 after failure to defend the title as he concentrated on fighting heavyweights.

In the 1940s, Archie Moore and his brethren were victims of a racist society that denied great Black fighters a chance at immortality. The 1950s saw Moore persevere and even at an advanced age prove to the boxing world how horribly wrong they were in participating in overt racism by not only becoming the Light Heavyweight Champion of the World, but also dominating the division despite being past his prime. The fact is, Moore proved that he and the other great Black 175 pounders of the 1940s were all vastly superior boxers than the men who went along with the program and denied them an opportunity to be champion. Moore’s perseverance was a testament to both his pride and greatness, resulting in the Old Mongoose cementing his claim as the fifth greatest Light Heavyweight of all-time.

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