SI Vault
Martin Kane
December 22, 1958
After four trips to the canvas a venerable but gallant Archie Moore saved his championship by knocking out French Canada's hero, Yvon Durelle, and so set a new KO record
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December 22, 1958 Toujours Le Champion!

After four trips to the canvas a venerable but gallant Archie Moore saved his championship by knocking out French Canada's hero, Yvon Durelle, and so set a new KO record

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Fisherman Durelle almost took the bait. He threw the right, but he preceded it with a hook to the body that jarred Moore so that he was not able to get the protective right glove across his chin in time. He crumpled ingloriously. His custom-tailored black-and-gold trunks picked up rosin powder. His gray-flecked hair, so neatly combed when he climbed through the ropes in a robe of cherry red and silver, was shocked awry. So were his brains. The timekeeper pounded his mallet nine times before Archie could get on his feet again, standing on legs that now were only as sturdy as a pair of eels.

This was the moment for a knockout punch but Durelle, unprepared for greatness, could not bring it off. In the opinion of Referee Jack Sharkey he merely shoved the staggering Archie, who went down again. Sharkey did not rule it a knockdown. This time Archie was up at two, a sign that he was thinking bravely but not clearly. While he struggled to maintain a dignified attitude the crudely ambitious Durelle clouted him with a right hand that seemed to travel from Baie Ste. Anne and hard enough to kill a marlin. For the third time in that first round Archie sagged to the floor. At the seventh thump of the gavel he rose, totally fuddled, and lasted out the remaining seconds with only enough consciousness to feel embarrassed.

On the day before the fight Archie had made it imperiously clear that if he could not handle a fighter of Durelle's caliber he would retire after this, his 205th recorded fight in 23 years. That, he said, was why he wanted nothing to do with a mandatory return-bout clause in the fight contract. It was such a fight, however, that there may now be an outdoors return at Montreal in June.

But if between the first and second rounds he was planning a retirement speech he gave no sign of it as the second round progressed.

Instead, he stalled for time to heal his wounds. He staved off Durelle with a left jab that, though not nearly so deft as it became later, was quite enough for a curiously cautious Durelle. In this round Durelle lost the bout, apparently because of misconceived shrewdness in his corner. He should have swarmed over Archie, who was still weak, but instead he stayed away from him.

Durelle's manager, who is a grocer, explained afterward that he had told Yvon to be wary in the second round and avoid coming to grips with the sophisticated Archie.

"I told Yvon to watch him because Archie is so smart," Chris Shaban admitted. "So Yvon was careful in the second."

Moore thus survived and went on to win the fight.

Durelle tried a bit harder in the third, which he won while Moore retreated and gathered strength. In the fourth Moore broke into a light sweat for the first time in the very chilly, unheated Forum, where ice is permanently laid for hockey and fight spectators wear overcoats and hats. The sweat signaled that his bodily reflexes were returning to normal.

Durelle's big chance came again in the fifth. He knocked Archie down, again with a right-hand punch. Archie rose groggily from a count of five, and this time Durelle chased him. But Moore, warming to the evening's work, was able to mount his famous crisscross defense. By the end of the round Archie was chasing Durelle. His mouthpiece bared in an unaccustomed snarl, the champion suddenly crashed a right and a left to the challenger's jaw. Durelle was staggered and he may have been disheartened. He did not win a round thereafter on any of the three judges' cards. (Referees do not keep score in Montreal.)

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