The Springfield Rifle was sighted in to minute-of-angle accuracy for this very special hunt. It crashed its bullets to the bull's-eye with power and precision. At the end of 10 rounds the eye, Hogan (Kid) Bassey's, was all but shot away. The Rifle, Featherweight Champion Davey Moore, who hails from Springfield, Ohio, had won another medal for expert marksmanship. Thereby he saved his title.
Moore, who had won the title from Bassey at this same Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles last March, and in much the same way, looked better defending his championship than in winning it. He was far ahead on points when Bassey, right eye closing to a slit, blood spurting from a minor cut near the left eye, body sore from relentless pummeling, slumped onto his stool after the bell ending the 10th round. There Bassey told his handlers, "No more." In much the same plight on the night he lost the championship, Bassey also quit because blood streaming into his eyes had blinded him.
Some of the crowd booed as the little Nigerian street brawler stayed on his stool when the bell rang for the 11th round—thus, by California rules, making it an llth-round knockout. The boos were unfair, the result of a cultural misunderstanding which is very like that which prevails between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev. Only rarely does an American fighter quit on his stool. Carmen Basilio fought gallantly against Sugar Ray Robinson with one eye closed. Archie Moore, pounded into exhaustion by Rocky Marciano, insisted to the referee that he wanted to be knocked out. But European-trained fighters commonly quit when they see no chance to win, and it is not held to be a disgrace to do so.
Theoretically, if Bassey had continued he might have won. He was three or four rounds behind on most cards, and there were five rounds to go. But he had no chance at all. A rapidly weakening Bassey clearly lacked the steam to land even a lucky punch of any consequence.
August 30, 1959
Against Moore, Bassey was badly handicapped by a common defect of European-trained fighters, again a cultural difference. European referees strictly enforce the rules against low blows, accidental or not. The fear of losing points, or even a decision, because of an accidental foul forces most European fighters to concentrate on head-punching. By the same token, they do not expect to be hit much about the body, and so they have neglected to build up adequate defense below the chin.
Bassey was very easily hit to the body and Moore took sound advantage of the situation. Repeatedly, the champion's spirit-sapping hooks to the rib cage and belly brought down Bassey's guard. Toward the end Moore was able to fire at the closing right eye almost at will.
It took Moore less time to win the fight than to make the weight. The morning weigh-in dragged on for an hour and 34 minutes while the lean little champion hopped on and off the scales seven times. Between trips to the scales he retired to the dressing room to sweat off a stubborn quarter of a pound. Finally, after he had spat a few times and exhaled furiously on the scales, he brought the pointer to a teetery balance at 126. Bassey came in at 125.
The distinctive training methods of Ingemar Johansson, who scandalized boxing's traditionalist puritans by dancing in nightclubs and relaxing in the Grossinger sun, have a modest counterpart in Davey Moore's peculiar approach to physical fitness. Davey spent the first three of his nine weeks' training mostly in bed, sleeping as many as 18 hours a day. He did no sparring or roadwork at the time, limbering up with a little soft-ball and horseshoe pitching. But mostly he just slept. At the end of the three weeks he began a gradual shift to more ordinary methods.
There was talk afterward that Moore might take on Joe Brown for the lightweight title, but it seemed more likely that his next opponent will be Paul Jorgensen, ranked No. 3 by the National Boxing Association. Whoever the opponent is, he had better practice ducking bullets.