Ever see a mongoose fight a snake?" Archie Moore wanted to know. A bloody towel about his neck, hemmed in by autograph hunters, he lounged against the wall of his dressing room in London's Harringay Arena and laughed cheerfully.
"The mongoose lets the snake strike him again and again," explained Naturalist Moore, "while he keeps out of the way, watching, figuring out just how the snake strikes. Then, when he's got it figured and the snake tires and slows down, the mongoose hits and kills him. Sounds easy, doesn't it?" With that, Archie went chuckling off to the showers.
Five minutes before, he had knocked out 27-year-old West Indian Yolande Pompey, thereby retaining his light-heavyweight title. In one easy breath he explained how he had done it.
June 17, 1956
When Archie climbed into the Harringay ring last week he weighed a trim 175 pounds or so, but most of the crowd of 8,000 Britishers felt that his severe dieting wouldn't prevent him from winning. He began slowly, unlike the typical aging fighter who tries to get his work done before his legs go. Pompey, agreeably, displayed a reluctance to fight. When half of the second round had gone lackadaisically by, Referee Jack Hart, annoyed by Archie's leisurely tactics, advised him to "get to work and show more action or I'll throw you out." Grumbled Moore later: "What a rude referee. Telling me, a world champion, to get busy."
But Hart's words had their effect. Archie caught Pompey with a left hook on the head, sending him into the ropes. He followed with a left jab, a right hook, then backed off again.
Through six rounds, Archie waited and studied. Only once did the nagging, bustling Pompey break inside the two horizontal barriers he held across his face. In the fourth Pompey caught the old man flush on the nose. "It was a hard punch," Archie revealed, "and it's the first time my nose has bled in years. I didn't like it." He expressed his indignation with a pair of combinations that forced the challenger to backpedal. But then Archie again subsided into watchful evasion.
By the ninth, Archie, behind in points, had his man set up. Pompey had boxed aggressively and well after a desultory start. Now he was slowing. He had shown Archie he had neither a series of hard punches nor a desire to slug it out. Moore fired a right cross that rocked Pompey back four feet, bringing blood to his nose and above his right eye. He followed with four right hands to Pompey's head. At the bell the West Indian was unsteady. He was still teetering as he came out for the 10th. Archie went after him. A long right put Pompey down for a count of eight. When he got to his feet, Moore stalked him to a corner and threw two rights and a left hook, the same combination that knocked Bobo Olson out. Pompey sank to his knees for a nine-count. Again he arose and Moore gave him the same combination and Pompey went down again. Gamely, he regained his feet as the referee threw his arms around him. The fight was over.
Showered, Archie offered a final piece of intelligence: "Until I get the world heavyweight title—and I'm the best heavyweight in the world—I shall not let my present title go."
A wise decision, for it may be a different kind of snake old Mr. Mongoose will be studying in the fall.