Lee Groves

10: Most notable St. Louis title fights


December 17, 1952, St. Louis Arena – Archie Moore W 15 Joey Maxim I

Archie Moore’s route to a world title opportunity was unlike any other in the sport’s history. Long regarded as one of the most knowledgeable and skilled fighters going, Moore had to wait 16 years and nearly 170 fights before finally receiving his first crack at world honors. Some of that was Archie’s doing; he put together modest winning streaks only to stumble against the likes of Shorty Hogue, Jack Chase, and Aaron Wade as well as Eddie Booker, Jimmy Bivins and his ultimate nemesis Ezzard Charles, who went three-for-three and stopped him in eight in their last fight.

Moore’s odyssey included fights in Australia, Argentina, Panama and Uruguay plus 20 states and the District of Columbia. But the 36-year-old’s journey eventually led him back to his adopted hometown of St. Louis against Joey Maxim, who in his last fight registered the only knockout loss of Sugar Ray Robinson’s career, though the 104-degree heat lent a huge assist.

“The Old Mongoose” had finally assembled a lengthy run of success; since June 1949 he had gone 29-1-1 (22 KO), the only loss being a 10-rounder to Harold Johnson that was avenged 50 days later. Moore weighed a hard 172 ½ and he quickly asserted his authority by crowding Maxim and shaking him with a right to the temple in the final minute.

Moore kept the fight at close range where his deceptively quick hands consistently beat Maxim to the punch while also neutralizing Maxim’s vaunted jabs. He kept working Maxim’s ribs with hammering blows and during those rare times they were at distance Moore’s telephone-pole jabs snapped back the champion’s head.

Moore did flirt with disaster; he lost the fourth round due to low blows and received a warning in the sixth. But “Ancient Archie” steadied himself and proceeded to pull away in the late rounds. Moore nearly floored the champion in round 10 and his subsequent attack opened cuts under both eyes and swelled Maxim’s cheekbone.

With 20 KOs in 101 wins Maxim had little chance of staging a miracle comeback and he didn’t. Moore won decisively on two cards (82-68 and 87-63 under the scoring rules of the time) while referee Harry Kessler saw it far closer at 76-74. A final note: Maxim made $100,000 but Moore, who was working on a percentage of the gate, made nothing because the show lost money. Still, he left the ring the world champion, so the paychecks would come soon enough.

The fight itself was hardly scintillating but the history can’t be denied: A persistent veteran who eventually would become a legend culminates a lengthy story with a fairy tale ending before his friends and family. For all of boxing’s troubles, the sport couldn’t get any better than that.



Photos / Ed Mulholland-Fightwireiamges.com and THE RING

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