Of course, aging in the ring is different than learning to throw junk after the high, hard one goes, or improving the short game after the drives stop traveling as far. Many fighters who stay the extra years end up walking into walls. "Yes, indeed, I prayed over it," Moore says. "But, you see, I wasn't getting hit—so it couldn't be a real concern, no matter how long I stayed in. Only three men ever really hit me: Marciano, Yvon Durelle and Leonard Morrow...well, and Bivins that time he caught me down on my knees. Heh, heh. But I made him pay for it."
The Mongoose leans back, in reverie again. "No, you treat boxing right, it'll tell you when it's time for you to leave. The mystery will speak to you. The first time I defended my title against Durelle"—and Moore closes his eyes—"ahhh." He smiles warmly.
The man is smiling at this memory? That bout in 1958 was a bloodbath. Durelle knocked him down four times before Moore came back to put the challenger out of his misery in the 11th. After the tide turned in the sixth round, Moore came back to his corner, and his manager chirped, "You're winning the fight."
Archie said: "What fight?"
What memories! "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."
The Mongoose leans forward in his chair and opens his eyes. "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, and so I knew then that boxing, through Mr. Durelle, Monsieur Durelle, was advising me it was nearing the time for me to leave." Moore was 41 going on 45. "But I eased out, which was proper, I believe. You can't say to boxing: O.K., boom, I'm gone. You climb down by degrees. I knew I had to get out, but I got down easy, and then one day, when I was gone, nobody even knew I was gone." Poof.
The Mongoose chortles, then leans back, twiddling his thumbs.
By the time Moore retired from the ring, in 1965, he had become a movie actor, having played the character Mark Twain called Nigger Jim in the 1960 remake of Huckleberry Finn. The film was not a good one, though Moore came away with good reviews and collected a few other acting parts as a result.
He received some criticism for accepting the role, but he had read the book thoroughly and found both an affinity and an affection for Jim. Throughout his career there were references to the Mongoose as either an Othello or a Mephistopheles of the ring, but he professed to identity with Aesop, a slave who was more clever than his masters and told wonderful stories.
Moore enjoyed talking to sportswriters. He understood how much athletes and sportswriters needed each other, but he also genuinely liked the men who wrote about him. Then, too, Moore fancied himself something of a colleague, for he was a most prolific correspondent—especially in an age when letter writing was becoming a lost art. At the height of Moore's powers. Red Smith would devote entire columns to reprinting his letters, which arrived from the four corners of the earth, signed only by 'The Goatee" or "Der Mongoose."