When I go in there I never worry about what he's gonna do. I know what he's gonna do.
"I'm a stylist. I can cope with any situation.
"Nobody's been stronger than me in there. The fella might be bigger, heavier. But he ain't any stronger."
This training camp confidence of Archie Moore, challenger, has been a glove flicked in the face of history, an outrageous insolence. It is against the odds and the gods that Archie Moore can win the world heavyweight championship. For if he should beat Champion Rocky Marciano at Yankee Stadium on the night of Sept. 20 Moore will be the first light-heavyweight champion ever to rise above his station and, even at his official and suspect age of 38, the oldest fighter ever to win the title. He will, furthermore, have defeated one of the roughest barroom brawlers the game has recently seen, a man who never has been defeated as a professional (Coley Wallace beat Marciano in amateur days), has been knocked down only once and has won 42 of his 48 bouts by knockouts.
September 18, 1955
(There are weaknesses in the structure of the argument for Marciano though. Most of his brief record was made against unknowns in the way stations of New England fight clubs. He is, in fact, compounded of all that makes a club fighter—heedless of defense, a hard-charging, free-swinging mass of aggression. The name fighters Marciano defeated—Joe Louis, Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles—were over the hill by the time Rocky got to them. And he was astonishingly unable to deliver a finishing blow to the inept, helpless Don Cockell last May, though Rocky threw his best outlaw punches without fear of retaliation. The referee, not Marciano, stopped that fight. Cockell was on his feet at the end.)
Moore's confidence, endemic to his Berkshire Hills camp, is based less on an underestimation of Marciano than on a sure self-knowledge that Archie Moore is one of the all-time great boxers of his weight, a master strategist, a superb tactician, a brilliant technician, a sturdy, scientific puncher. Archie will tell you he is any and all of these. To a surprising extent he is.
He knows all the punches and throws them hard and beautifully in a style which, while classic, he has modified to his own taste. He sets up the opposing fighter to receive what Archie wants to give him. He tricks him into throwing punches Archie wants to counter. He advances according to plan, retreats only to previously prepared positions. But he has been beaten and hence he can be beaten. Ezzard Charles did it three times when Charles was at his peak. Harold Johnson—recently fed a poisoned orange in Philadelphia (SI, May 30)—beat Moore and so did Henry Hall, Leonard Morrow, Holman Williams and Jimmy Bivins, among others. Moore beat them all but Charles in return bouts and in any case, his friends say, Archie sometimes fought on a wholly inadequate diet. Now he is hungry in another sense. He eats well, especially since his Bobo Olson payday, but Archie's appetite for the heavyweight championship is enormous. How will he get it? By using, he says, all he has learned in 20 years of fighting the world over, from Tasmania to Toledo. He is convinced he can hit Marciano almost at will, that Marciano cannot hit him.
Moore on heavyweights:
"You're fightin' heavyweights, don't forget you're hittin' a stationary target. The fellas I fought, you can't hardly hit 'em. Some of 'em you can't hardly hit with a handful of rice—fellas like Holman Williams, like the Cocoa Kid—'less you plan your punches.
"Fight heavyweights, I don't have any trouble hittin' 'em. Take Bob Baker. They say he was to be one of the best young heavyweights—boxin' style. Time I got through with him he was a bloated bloody mess. I didn't have no trouble hittin' Nino Valdes and I weighed 196 then. Marciano isn't goin' to be any trouble for me.... Course, all the time you got to exercise a certain amount of caution you're in there with a puncher like that."
Moore on the manly art:
"There are things I just know now. They're part of me. You'd be amazed the number of champions don't know the fundamentals of boxing. I mean the ABCs of boxing. Don't print that I said they're stupid, you understand. But there's champions don't even know the fundamentals. It's a no wonder so many of 'em can't fight when they don't know how to move. Can't stand, can't even stand up in the ring, can't even walk around.
"Take the hook, jab, uppercut, cross. They're the basic punches. Everything else come out of that.
"The left cross, it's a different punch. Not many of them throw it. They don't know it exists. Anybody tell you they no such thing as a left cross, you tell them they're a liar. Why isn't there such a thing as a left cross? There's a right cross, and you got two hands. Anything you do with your right hand you can do with your left hand. It's a good punch, say you're trapped in a corner. Like this."
Moore leaned back against his cottage's screen-door jamb and let his head fall, his eyes going down past his left hand, which was lying flat along the left center of his chest, palm in, the left forearm slanting down along the chest. He carried his right arm crooked and low. He shot the left hand, fingers open and extended, diagonally up across his chest and straight out, past and ahead of the right shoulder.
"Anybody can throw a shot-put can make a cross. Same motion."
"You mean you kind of push it?"
"No, it's not a push. It's a snap. You got to snap."
Moore believes the left jab is the fighter's best punch.
"What I mean, from the jab you set up everything else. Just suppose I was fightin' Marciano. Just suppose I was fightin' him and I was a little bit afraid of what he might do to me. I'd use that jab—stiff jabs. I mean he might want to throw punches in over my jab, but I don't believe he can do it. One thing, my arms longer than his. Then my jab is so hard and fast that his head would be goin' back, back, back, back. What I mean, besides while I was pilin' up points the jab can be a very damaging weapon, a very cutting weapon.
"You can use the jab to set a man up for what you want to do. You don't just move the head where you want it. You knock it. You knock it where you want it."
Does the jab's power come from a push off the right foot?
"No, left foot. Left foot. Left foot and the shoulder."
(Archie meant that by taking a quick short step with the left foot he builds up the weight momentum he needs to give the jab real power, adds more bulk momentum by quickly extending the left shoulder forward.)
"The left foot is the key to balance. In boxing the left foot is the key. The right foot is the rudder."
Moore regards the jab as both a defensive and offensive weapon.
"Some people carry their hands high. Me, I carry my hands low but I get that jab up there, and with force all the same."
Could the jab be used in the same corner defensive situation as the left cross?
"No, the position back there isn't a good one for jabs. I mean you're movin'. Your main thought, your main thinkin' is escape. Of course, you might could use a couple of good jabs to help you out of there and start again. But once you's out you got to start all over again. Left cross is a good punch there because you use it at a time when it isn't hardly possible to throw a punch.
"Position is everything. In boxin' position is everything—how you have your body set."
Moore said he never, "but never" throws a punch unless everything is right for the punch—unless his legs and hands are where he wants them and his body balance is correct.
He demonstrated the importance of body balance by having the SI man stand up.
"What make you think you're on balance? You on balance?" He pushed gently with two fingers and the SI man sat down.
Then Moore stood in the fighter's "natural position"—left foot forward and in a slight crouch.
The SI man pushed him hard but nothing happened. The SI man tried the "natural position." Moore pushed and again nothing happened.
Moore has the rare ability to start the jab and then, using the same body momentum, crook the arm and convert the jab into a good left hook. It is done in one motion. He calls this "hooking off a jab." Tony Zale was a master at it and Moore regards himself as tops at it too. Joe Louis, he says, never did it.
"Louis would go jab, jab, drop his arms. Jab, jab, drop his arms. Then, if he wanted to make a hook, he'd do it all by itself, real quick. Wasn't the same thing."
The "hook off the jab" and the "left cross" are two Moore trade-marks which set him off from most fighters.
Moore on escapology:
"I try to build a bridge. With each punch I try to build a bridge so I can escape over it if something goes wrong. That's what you call escapology. That's what I call escapology."
(Sparring with Clint (Tiger) Bacon, a journeyman light heavyweight, Moore showed the escape bridge he uses when he misses with a left hook. It is merely the economical device of having the hooking arm ready to block any possible counter.)
"Even when I'm escapin' I'm tryin' to think of how to get myself back in position. I try never to be off balance. Like if he throws a left hook at me I pick it off with my right hand, use that same hand in that same position to throw a punch. You know how many of 'em can do that? You know how many? One. Me. Ray Robinson never saw the day he could do that. I don't fight like nobody else who ever lived."
(On second thought, going by what he has read and old-timers have told him, Moore thinks maybe he fights a good deal like Joe Gans.)
Moore on the upper cut:
"The uppercut is a defensive weapon. It's a defensive weapon, the only punch that is. Use it like if a man has you trapped against the ropes and rainin' punches on you from all angles, if you use the uppercut, even if you throw it blind, you put enough force behind it you're liable to knock the man out."
Doesn't Marciano use the uppercut as an offensive weapon?
"Yeah. That's why he misses so much. You ever see him miss? He jumps almost off the floor. Saddler, Saddler uses the right uppercut, left uppercut as a cutting weapon. An offensive weapon, but a cutting weapon."
(Moore thinks of "cutting" a good deal. He may have in mind Marciano's reputation as a "bleeder" and especially the champion's nose, slit in the second Charles fight. Don Cockell did not test the nose but Moore, a marvelous jabber, almost certainly will.)
Moore on combinations:
"I would say a combination was a succession of successes. You don't throw 'em unless you got your man hurt. 'Less you've first lured him out of position and hurt him, then you go to work with your combinations.
"Simplest one is a 1-2. Left and right to the head.
"I won't tell you the numbers to my combinations. Those are my secrets."
Moore's system of cataloguing the combinations he uses is all his own. He has a number for each punch in a series but the same punch delivered twice in a row in a combination will, by Archie's mystical method, have a different number on its second delivery. He was asked, for instance, the number of the combination that put Bobo Olson away; two rights to the head climaxed by a left hook that turned into an uppercut at the last instant.
"That was a 4-6-9."
Thus he numbered the first right 4 and the second 6.
He was asked to number Zale's favorite combination: a right-left to the body followed immediately by a left to the head. He refused. Even Cheerful Norman, Archie's trainer, does not know Archie's system of cataloguing combinations. To an outsider this may seem to be a secret of no particular importance, but to Archie it is precious.
"You may be in the middle of a combination. You may be goin' to work, all of a sudden you say to yourself, 'Oh-oh. This ain't workin'. This ain't the right one.' You stop right there, start all over again. Maybe after you throw the first punch of a combination you see it ain't goin' right. You miss. That's where the escapology comes in again. Even while you're throwin' a combination you build your bridges so you can escape over them if things go wrong."
(Lay translation: even though a combination of punches is a unit in itself, every punch within the unit carries with it its own avenue of escape. If, for example, the second hook in a series is missed or is blocked, the opponent then is likely to be in an offensive position. At best, the offensive balance and rhythm of the combination-thrower has been upset and to throw the next punch while out of balance or rhythm could be disastrous.)
Moore on rhythm:
"Everything in boxing is rhythm. Look at Joe Walcott. Walcott made the unforgivable error, a man had been in the ring as long as he has. He come out in the first round, he thought Marciano would be burnin' leather. Marciano not such a fast starter. They come out like this [bending and looking up]. Walcott just hit him in the mouth. Hit him in the face [accompanied by the motion of a short left hook. Marciano was knocked down at this point for the first time in his career].
"Walcott, you could see his chest swell five inches. He just turned around and walked away. He turned his back. That's where he lost his man right there.
"Man been in the ring long as Walcott and me, he knows where the ropes is. He knows where the corner is. He don't have to turn around. Walcott turned his back, then went over to the ropes thinkin' he just wait for the man to count him out. He swung around again. [Moore spread his arms in the posture of a man resting outstretched arms on the top strand of the ring ropes, then jumped to indicate surprise.] Man was on his feet. Marciano didn't take a count. Got right up.
"Walcott should have been backin' up this way. [Moore did a kind of crab-wise retreat, dropping the right foot back, then sliding the left foot back, always on balance and eyes always on the imaginary spot where Marciano had fallen.] Backin' up. Backin' up. He should have been countin' the number of steps to his corner and countin' the exact number of steps it would take to get back to the man. And he should have been thinkin' about what punch he was goin' to hit him with when he got up. But he looked, jumped. He lost his rhythm right there. He was out of the rhythm of his fight."
Did he mean that there was both a fast and slow rhythm to a fighter's battle—the fast rhythm of punching and the slow rhythm of the overall battle plan?
"Yeah. He lost his rhythm, lost a half step gettin' back to his man, and that cost him the fight. First punch he threw missed by that much. That extra half step."
He showed with a tiny measurement of left thumb and forefinger the distance by which the punch missed, then measured a half step with his hands and showed that the distance of the half step could have brought the punch down from a fraction over Marciano's head to the exact area of Rocky's chin.
Moore on self-defense:
"I was a defensive fighter first. That's the first thing I learned. Like they say, boxing is the art of self-defense. So when I started boxing, I was so wrapped up in boxing, in the art of boxing, I learned defense. That's the important thing. That's the thing to learn first. Then, after I been fightin' about a year, I learned how to punch. What I mean, I always could punch. I was a natural puncher, but I learned how to get the most out of those punches....
"I try never to let nobody hit me. Nobody. I try to block all punches. I try to catch 'em with my hand, block, turn my head so they roll off my shoulders. I made it a policy long ago never to take part of a punch. You know it's that can wear down a fighter. You take a little and a little and a little and pretty soon you goin' to wear down. You know a little drop of water can wear a hole in a rock. It can wear away iron or steel. Which I mean, every fighter is goin' to get hit in some part of a fight. Every man goin' to get hit some time in a fight. But I try never, never, to get hit in the head.
"Now I'm told the brain control the whole body. Now I don't know, but that's what I'm told the brain is, what I mean the message center for the whole, you know, the whole physical body. Control it. Now I don't know how big the brain is, how much it weigh. I don't know if it's this big or that big. And the head, the head is a box for the brain. The brain is in that. And you know if you keep hittin' that box, hittin' it, the brain is bound to take some shockin'. You keep hittin' it long enough pretty soon it's goin' to make you do some things you don't want to do. It's so delicate in there you get those wires crossed the rest of the body not goin' to do what you want it to do. You see some of those old fighters around that way today took that knockin' on the head, they're in a pitiful condition.
"But my standards is so high, I get hit so seldom, when I do it don't make so much."
Moore on Marciano:
(During a filming of the first Charles-Marciano fight.)
"Look at Marciano. Everything's deliberate. Everything's deliberate. See, one punch. Now another. Charles didn't jab the man. Look at that. That's not a jab. It's just a little push. Here, look at that. Twenty seconds and he didn't hit him. That time a man could throw four jabs. Look at that. Ten seconds. Man could have four jabs in that time. Left hook's Marciano's best punch. Marciano's not such a fast starter. Look at that. Amateurs. Look like an amateur fight. Look at that. Charles tryin' to counter. How you goin' to counter that hook? Man got stubby little arms not longer than that...."
(Charles hit Marciano with a good left hook.)
"Look. Look. Look at Rocky backin' up. Rocky's hurt. See him backin' up? Charles don't go after him. He just stands there watchin' him."
After the filming, Archie observed that the first Charles fight was Marciano's best. "Absolutely his best fight. I got to watch these pictures many more times. Study them."
Both Archie and Cheerful believe Rocky has survived as champion because no opponent yet has subjected him to the cumulative destruction of a series of good blows, something Moore intends to do. Neither is too concerned about Marciano's looping right because he misses with it so much.
"How the man gonna hit me?" Archie asks, a point Marciano himself has been heard to raise. But Archie adds: "If he does luck up and happen to hit me, that'd be only natural. Man 38 fightin' a man 31."
For all that he is an artist in the ring, Moore is a realist too. He doesn't expect to get through the fight without being hit at all. He does believe that, except for that element of luck, he can protect himself against any damaging blows Marciano can throw.
How will he fight Marciano?
"I told you that. I'll fight him with a mixture of all the years of being in the fight game, the things I learned, the tricks I learned, the way I've been telling you."
SOME MOORE STRATAGEMS
AGAINST A BOXER
Opposing Bobo Olson, in the fight which made certain his shot at the heavyweight title, Moore threw a most un-Moorelike overhand right in the second round. He explains: "I wanted him to start thinkin' that's what I wanted to do. I missed him a mile. I just wanted to get him scared of my right hand. Then I went to work with the left."
AGAINST A SLUGGER
Like Marciano, Bob Satterfield was a swarming, aggressive fighter and dangerous because of his powerful punch. Moore stopped Satterfield in three rounds but only after setting him up for a knockout with a succession of stiff jabs which kept this strong one-punch hitter off balance. Moore is expected to use the jab on Marciano, too.
AGAINST A COUNTERPUNCHER
Ron Richards, Australian champion in the middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight brackets when Moore fought him, counterpunched with a dangerous uppercut. With Moore's jabs falling short, he lengthened them by leaning forward, virtually inviting an uppercut. But Moore blocks uppercuts easily and knocked out Richards.
AGAINST A BOXER-COUNTERPUNCHER
A knockout punch may take 14 rounds to set up, as in Moore's title bout with Harold Johnson. "I knew what I wanted and I knew how to get it—a straight right." But Johnson, who had fought Moore before, avoided the right by fractions of an inch. Moore pounded his body, weakening him, and the right finally landed in the 14th.
THE GUILEFUL ART OF FEINTING A LA MOORE
A good feint tricks the opponent into expecting what isn't coming or induces him to throw what he shouldn't. It may be only a subtle shifting of the feet or the apparently careless dropping of a guard. Moore is a master feinter but Marciano, once he is stung, tends to ignore an opponent's feints and just swings at random
Drawing back right foot (1) makes opponent think Moore is setting himself for a left hook. The opponent weaves to his left to get out of the way and moves into the path of a straight right to the head (2). The straight right should meet the opponent as he is moving because then he is off balance, or at least not in position to make his own counter. But if the right-hand punch had missed, Moore would then have been open either for a right hook to the body or a left hook to the side as a counterpunch.
Drawing back left foot slightly (1) may feint a reluctant jabber into action by persuading him he can jab Moore off balance. If the jab comes with opponent's right hand low (2) Moore blocks it from the inside with his right hand, which continues on in one motion to the opponent's chin. With opponent's right hand high (3) Moore again blocks with his right but at the same time weaves to his left, thus getting his weight onto his left foot, and then is in balance to throw a left hook to the body.
Shifting shoulders to right and dropping left hand may draw a right lead to the head (1). This exposes left side of feinter's face. As the opponent starts his right to the head (2) Moore instantly shoots his own right to the chin, moving forward to get inside the opponent's right. Only a boxer with a very fast right hand should try this feint, though it is safe enough if the opponent is out of position to throw a right but can be tricked into it. Moore's right hand is one of the fastest. His experience spans a generation.
Leaning back with right hand high against head (1) so opponent will not use his left hook may influence opponent to try a right to the body. When he comes in with his right (2) Moore hooks him with his left or (3) brings the jab up from a low hand position—a Moore characteristic. Marciano normally comes out boxing and can then be feinted, but once he is stung, the champion changes to his natural, swarming style and thereafter never has to be feinted until he begins to tire in the late rounds of a long fight.
Dropping right hand and leaning a trifle backward (1) may draw a left hook. Moore then moves to his left (2) and as the opponent's body comes around with the momentum of the hook Moore hits him in the body with another left hook. A risky alternate move would be to step inside the opponent's hook with a right counter but Marciano's stubby arms are difficult to get inside of, and the left hook, in Moore's opinion, is Marciano's very best punch. His short arms cause Marciano to prefer to fight close.
THE GOOD BOXER VS. THE GOOD SLUGGER
Archie Moore is unmarked (except for an abdominal scar, the result of surgery for ulcers) after a score of years in the prize ring, during which he has fought the best of those who were willing to meet him. His features are a sign of his extraordinary ability to defend himself and of his particular care not, if he can help it, to get hit about the head. Moore started as a defensive fighter but learned early that boxing fans do not admire this breed. Before long he was developing his natural punching ability. One of the key points in Moore's defense is the curious horizontal position of his arms in the picture above. If events require, he can shift them instantly to the more common vertical position (glove alongside each jaw) and does so with bewildering speed. As Rocky Marciano has observed, "He's all gloves, arms and elbows." On the other hand, Marciano does not greatly respect a defense which depends on the arms alone. He has repeatedly delivered such punishing blows to opponents' arms that after a few rounds they have been so numb as to be all but unusable. Roland La Starza emerged from a Marciano bout with broken blood vessels in his arm. The drawing shows Marciano missing with his famous Susie Q right, a common occurrence, although when it lands, even in the looping overhands Marciano throws, it can be devastating. Moore does not believe the champion can penetrate his defense with this punch, or any other good right. Archie has considerable respect, however, for Marciano's left hook.
EVENT: World Heavyweight Championship fight between Champion Rocky Marciano and Challenger Archie Moore. 15 rounds. Marciano's sixth title defense
DATE: Tuesday, September 20
TIME: 10:30 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time
PLACE: Yankee Stadium, New York City
PRICES: $40 (ringside), $30, $20, $10
TELEVISION: Theatre Network Television to 124 theaters in 90 cities. Average price $3.50. Bill Corum, announcer. No home TV
RADIO: ABC—10:30 p.m. Russ Hodges and Steve Ellis, announcers. Prefight program at 10:15 to 10:25, with five minutes of news before the fight
THE BOXER'S FIST
Moore has taped his own hands since he broke one because of improper taping. Without protection of fat or muscle, the hand, especially the knuckles, is extremely vulnerable. The rules permit 12 yards of two-inch surgical gauze, eight feet of 1½-inch adhesive tape for each hand. Taping starts at the wrist and can extend only to within one inch of knuckles. It prevents complete closing of the fist, thus prevents damage to finger tendons under impact of hard blow. Mobility of the wrist, a collection of small bones linked by ligaments (see circle), is a fighter's hazard. Taping firms it. Basic goal of taping: to permit transmission and dispersion of the force of a blow in a straight line from the hand back through the wrist to arm and shoulder, which are well equipped to take it. Blow should be delivered with flat of clenched fist, not knuckles. Hand, wrist and arm must be in straight line, not cocked.
ARCHIE'S SPECIAL PUNCH
The "hook off the jab" looks awkward but is brilliantly effective. Moore's opponents never know whether to defend against a jab or hook because they cannot tell which is coming. This jab-hook starts as a jab, ends as a hook and is delivered from the same body position and starting motion as the jab. All but a few fighters must pull back their hands and reset their feet to follow a jab with a hook. The jab (and the "hook off the jab") is most effective against an aggressive, attacking puncher like Marciano, not so useful against a clever boxer. As Moore says: "A boxer is most often moving away, ducking you; but a puncher is always coming in." He expects Marciano to come in. Jab will keep him off balance, hook will hurt.