Archie "The Old Mongoose" Moore's Toughest Fight

Matt WerneckeCorrespondent IApril 6, 2009

Archibald Lee Wright, known as Archie “The Old Mongoose” Moore is probably the best professional boxer that younger people have never heard about.  His boxing career spanned 27 years.  During his time in the ring, he was able to rack up at least 141 TKO’s, a record that may never be broken.

Archie Moore is known to have started boxing at the age of 15, but did not get a title challenge for his first 16 ½ years as a pro until 1952 at the age of 39 against Joey Maxim.

Maxim did his best to avoid the fight until ordered to defend his title by the National Boxing Association.   Moore won his first title fight by decision after 15 rounds of knocking Maxim around the ring senseless, but only walked away with $800.

According to Moore, his toughest fight occurred on December 10, 1958 at the Forum in Montreal against a French Canadian named Yvon “The Fighting Fisherman” Durelle, not Rocky Marciano,a heavyweight champion for four years who retired without losing a fight in his professional career.

Moore always preferred to fight in his opponent’s back yard, but he had his hands full in the frigid unheated Forum.  A few days prior to the fight, the 45-year-old said he would retire if he could not beat Durelle and he was obligated to offer a rematch if he won the contest.

The fight started with a flourish of heavy punching.  Durelle proved to be more aggressive, landing a hook to the body of Moore that stunned him enough to overlook Durelle’s next punch:  a devastating right hand to the face that crumpled him to the floor.  It took the full nine counts by referee Jack Sharkey for Moore to get up. The aging champion rose unsteadily to his feet barely conscious and struggled to survive when he was quickly knocked down again by a shove from Durelle.  Somehow, Moore jumped to his feet after a two count.  At this point, Moore was just trying to make it out of the round alive and struggled to defend himself.  Unfortunately Moore was quickly floored yet again by another massive right hand that sent him to the canvas unable to arise until the referee reached seven counts. 

Years later, Moore would say that Durelle could hit like a mule’s kick. "The first time he put me down, I hit my head first, then my feet. I was laying there, and I thought, 'Wow, this guy can hit.' They said Marciano was a house wrecker, and he was, but it took him a volley to get the job done. This guy: one punch."  "And as I was laying there, I felt something inside my mouth. And then I tasted blood. My blood. Durelle had torn me inside my mouth, and that had never happened before.”

The second round began with Moore still in recovery mode, just fending off his opponent with a less-than-effective left jab.  Durelle decided not to pursue his advantage and became less active and more cautious due to bad advice from his corner.

In the third round, Durelle picked up the pace and kept Moore retreating around the ring, still trying to recover from the first round.  By round four, Moore had finally broken a sweat and was starting to feel better until the fifth round. 

Durelle got lucky again in the fifth, landing another heavy right hand to the face of Moore that knocked him down yet again to the canvas; the 45-year-old rose groggily from the canvas after five counts.  But Durelle’s luck was running out. Most fighters, regardless of age, would probably have called it a day, but not the Old Mongoose. Moore steadily regained his composure and began to implement his now famous crisscross (rope a dope) defense; Moore later taught this defense to Cassius Clay who renamed it the rope a dope.  By the end of the round Moore was chasing Durelle around the ring practically snarling at him. Before the round ended, Moore suddenly landed a punishing left right combination that staggered Durelle and left him unsettled. 

Moore’s subsequent physical renewal as the fight progressed would probably have left modern day sports physiologists perplexed as he continued to gain strength and began to dominate the fight, imposing his will on the 29-year-old challenger who seemed by all accounts to weaken in the later rounds.

By the seventh round, Moore had recovered from his earlier beatdown and was able to floor Durelle with a right, left, right combination that dropped him hard, down for a two count. 

By round ten, Moore was working Durelle over with an astounding array of punches that came from both fists and landed as fast as he could throw them. Moore then proceeded to knock Durelle down again with a left hook that sprayed blood from his mouth. 

After the bell rang signaling the start of round eleven, Moore dominated the fight, landing several right hand punches to pummel Durelle until he fell to the canvas after a left hook ended his night.  He got back up after a nine count and then was knocked back down again after a flurry of right and left handed punches.  Durelle never got back up. 

After the fight, Moore greeted a teary eyed Yvon Durelle and wished him a merry Christmas.  Eight months later, they would fight again with Moore emerging victorious after just three rounds.

Archie Moore would go on to fight until 1962 but was later stripped of his title after ignoring a fight request.  He held the light heavyweight title for eleven years and lived until 1998 when he died at the age of 84 with his eight children by his side.

Archie Moore’s Professional Record

Won: 196

Lost: 26

Draw: 8

No Decision: 1

TKO’s: 143-145

*Final stats vary from source to source.


Yvon Durelle’s Professional Record

Won: 88

Lost: 22

No Decision: 1

TKO’s 51