Before signing to defend his light heavyweight title against Bobo Olson, Archie Moore, who then weighed 196½ pounds, made a painful confession. "Man," he confided, "it will take dynamite to get me to 175 pounds."
Last week at Ehsan's Training Camp, a few miles from Summit, N.J., Old Archie, who is pushing 40, was midway in his campaign to lop off those 21-odd pounds. And while the graying, cagey veteran was keeping mum on how much he's managed to shed, it was obvious that he has an exhausting battle on his hands before he ever touches gloves with Olson at the Polo Grounds next Wednesday night.
Moore would like everyone to think he has a secret formula for reducing. "I'll tell you," he taunts, "I know how to take off weight. I learned from a man in Australia, an aborigine, in 1940. It's a secret and there are other athletes like me who get overweight, they'd like to know it." But the formula, in essence, is what most overweight fighters apply: a steady diet of heavy workouts on an empty stomach.
Moore's workday at Ehsan's begins at 7 each morning with a six-mile jog. "I like to wait until the sun comes up so I can sweat good." To help nature along, Archie runs in heavy scarlet hunting pants, a woolen lumber jacket, a knitted wool cap pulled down around his ears and, underneath all this, a rubber sweat suit. In this attire he burns up more energy in one hour than an office worker does in an entire day.
June 19, 1955
After roadwork Archie showers, is rubbed down by his trainer, Cheerful Norman, and eats—or better drinks—breakfast: a large glass of iced orange juice and a cup of hot tea with a single teaspoon of sugar. Once in a while, but rarely during these corpulent days, he may also eat one egg, four strips of bacon and a slice of dry toast.
From 9 until one he relaxes and sips two more glasses of orange juice. "You see, my training is as much rest as work. You break the body down with work, then you gotta build it up with rest." Sprawled on the dingy sheets in Room No. 5 behind the barrackslike gym at Ehsan's, a small cubicle cluttered with sweat clothes and flashy suits, sneakers and suede shoes, sports magazines and comic books, Archie writes letters (as many as 40 a day) to fans and friends and listens to tape recordings that he's made of his favorite blues musicians until he falls asleep.
"BREAK THE BODY DOWN"
At 1:30, without a bite of lunch, he climbs into the ring "to break the body down" some more. Dressed like any other middle-aged sportsman on a weight-losing binge in a health club (rubber suit covered with sweat pants and a heavy T-shirt), Moore shadow-boxes for three rounds and spars two to five rounds with his habitual sparring partner, Tiger Bacon. He ends his one-hour workout with three rounds each on the light and heavy punching bags and five minutes of calisthenics with two-pound hand weights. This performance would knock anybody else Archie's age out for good.
Promptly at 5 every evening, he sits down to his one big meal: lettuce and tomato salad (no dressing), a broiled one-pound porterhouse steak (no fat), two vegetables, a slice of dry toast, tea and melon or stewed fruit. After dinner he watches television, plays cards and is in bed by 10.
"The big thing about preparing for this fight," admits his trainer, "is taking off weight. After all, Archie should know how to box by now.
"So mostly we talk over his training schedule. He works it out and I keep tabs. The plan is to take off one pound of solid weight a day. Down to around 180 at least. Then watch his weight carefully. You leave that last five pounds for drying out. This makes him faster, a little meaner. You know?"
Armchair calculations indicate that Moore can lose a pound a day, if he rigidly sticks to his program. Losing weight always involves the same basic principle: eat less than the body normally needs so that the stored surplus is burned up to make up the deficit. Moore's diet—high in protein for strength, low in fat, and slim on carbohydrate—contains roughly 2,200 calories a day (less than a white-collar worker eats). His morning and afternoon workouts consume about 6,100 calories, or more than twice that of the average individual, leaving a deficit of 3,900 calories a day. This is approximately the number needed to burn up one pound of flabby fat.
But Archie, like anyone who has tried dieting, is only human; the temptation to nibble, if only so slightly, is agonizing. When he is out of training, he drinks as many as 10 malted milks a day. While he obviously must forsake this pleasure, he does sneak a dish of applesauce or bowl of cereal.
Archie sweats off about six quarts of fluid every day, but takes in about that much, plus salt tablets, to quench his thirst and maintain his vital water balance. If he didn't, as one doctor put it, he would fall flat on his face. And while it would be medically more sound if he ate three equal meals a day, he is getting sufficient minerals, proteins and vitamins.
No one can judge to what extent Archie's rigorous training and severe dieting are sapping his stamina. Not even Moore himself will know this until the fight is well under way. Several possibilities, however, do exist. For one, if he peels off all his excess as well as some normal body fat and is still far from the weight, he will have to begin burning muscle mass. This would weaken him; but it is an unlikely contingency. More likely, he can scale down to 180 pounds or less, and right before weighing in at noon Wednesday, sweat off the remaining pounds to make the 175-pound limit. Between noon and 5, when he eats his last meal before the fight, however, he must replenish this loss. He can drink water itself, but would be far wiser to take quick-energy liquid like beef bouillon or orange juice".
If he does not restore his fluid loss and enters the ring dehydrated, he may be courting the same disaster that ended the last big money-making light heavyweight championship in New York. It happened three years ago this week, when Sugar Ray Robinson fought Joey Maxim.
Dr. Ira McCown of the State Athletic Commission recalls, "The temperature that day was 94°. The humidity was 90%. That evening was so still and quiet you couldn't even see the flags waving in the breeze—because there was no breeze.
"We had a mass of 45,000 spectators on hand, which increased the heat. At ringside we also had an added factor of about 100 klieg lights overhead. That brought the temperature—it was proven—to 103° at the edge of the ring. Under the lights, we feel undoubtedly, it was nearer 130."
All day long Robinson had taken no fluids. He tried to sleep, but couldn't. He got up about 8 o'clock and Dr. Vincent Nardiello tried to give him something to drink. "I wanted to give him a big glass of lemonade with plenty of sugar. I finally gave him iced tea with plenty of sugar, but he refused to take it. 'Doctor,' he said, 'I've been fighting for 14 years. I never took any fluids before a fight.'
"I said, 'Son, this is a tough night. This is a real hot night. You have got to have fluids.' He didn't take a thing, and that's what licked him. He was absolutely dehydrated."
Robinson set a very fast pace, but he was already well dried out. Moreover, the humidity was so high that whatever more he sweated didn't evaporate to keep him cool.
"The first symptom that we noticed," Dr. McCown remembers, "was about the fourth round—and, mark you, the managers and trainers at ringside said, 'Oh Doc, he's in fine shape. Do you see how he is feinting Maxim for the kill?' Robinson was running around the ropes. I think it was the fifth he went to the wrong corner—well, he went the wrong way, but in the 11th he absolutely went to the wrong corner.
"At the 11th round Dr. Schiff [a ring physician] and I went to his corner. Robinson was very glassy-eyed. His body was wet. He was hot. He didn't know where he was. He was anxious to continue, but he was in no condition. He was absolutely out, physically out.
"When we got him back we had to literally carry him back to his dressing room. I have never seen such a state of cerebral excitation. He didn't know where he was. He was cursing—anybody would do that when he gets in that state. It was a very depressing thing to see."
Robinson was suffering from heat exhaustion. He was dried out to begin with. He became further exhausted because he literally lost three to four quarts of fluid right in the ring, and it wasn't being replaced.
NO TIME FOR WHIMS
But the situation is doubly dangerous for Archie Moore: Robinson weakened himself because of personal whim. Moore, going into this fight as finely trained as he can possibly get, can't even afford this extravagance.
Archie has had increasing trouble scaling down as a light heavyweight. For three days before his last fight with Maxim, a year ago January, he drank no liquid, he says. The morning of the weigh-in he still was 180 pounds, and to make the 175-pound limit had to run four miles to work off the five pounds. Last June, a month before his scheduled bout with Harold Johnson, he was 30 pounds overweight and received a five-week postponement. He didn't feel he could reduce that much in time. And just two months ago, before going into training for the Valdes fight, he tipped the scales at 212.
Unquestionably, this pre-fight battle with his own body is becoming too much for him. Archie himself admits it. "This Olson fight," he confided to a friend last week, "will be my last go as a light heavyweight." And, in what certainly was no understatement, he added: "Taking off all this weight...you know? It's damn killing."
FOOD: 2,200 CALORIES - WORK: 6,100 CALORIES = LESS: 3,900 CALORIES (ONE POUND FAT A DAY)