The thespian and the literatus came together with the pugilist in one unforgettable tour de force at his camp before the Marciano fight, when Moore gathered some of the nation's elite sportswriters about him and began to read to them from The Book of Boxing. Of course, there is no such book in print. This did not dissuade Moore, who pantomimed it all—even down to wetting his fingers as he turned the imaginary pages of the imaginary volume.
"The book of boxing is like the book of life, and to profit by it, you must begin at the beginning," he proclaimed. And he turned from the introduction to the first chapter. The writers settled down. This was in the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts, a green and gold day late in August, and the writers sat at Moore's feet and took notes as he read from a book that didn't exist.
He informed them that "escapology" had prolonged his time in the ring, and he told them a secret of how he lived. It was called "relaxism," and had been described to him by an old lady, who said: "When I sit, I sit all over."
Moore turned some more pages (no doubt looking for the good parts). There was the story of the aborigine, of Juan Perón, Lucky Thompson, Bandit Romero, Kid Chocolate (his idol), Sam Bruton, even Jimmy Bivins. Whatever might happen in the title fight against the Rock, Moore was at peace, because he had come to wear the light heavyweight crown by beating Maxim three years before, when he was 35 going on 39. He was mellow now, he was cool. He was a champion, and he had found his father. He turned to a new chapter and talked about jazz: "There is much about jazz that relates to boxing. The improvisation. The flow. The beauty of the notes. The tempo." The leaves rustled as a breeze drifted over the Berkshires.
Archie turned some pages and came to a poem his auntie, Willie Pearl, had recited to him so long ago. He recited it loud and clear. He didn't even have to look down at The Book of Boxing, for he knew it by heart, as he still does:
When a task is once begun
Never leave it until it is done.
If the labor is great or small,
Do it well or not at all.
Satisfied, Moore closed the volume and left it on his lap.
Now, more than 36 years later, Moore recites that poem again. You lived your life by that, didn't you? he is asked.
"No, I still plan to live by it," the Mongoose replies. "I am not done."
As it was written in another book, it is darkest just before dawn. Though Moore was boycotted during his dispute with Johnston, he finally got a fight in Toledo, a boxing backwater that not even managers cared about. That was 1949, and Archie earned $300 for knocking out the Alabama Kid in the fourth. But Toledo fell head over heels in love with the Mongoose. An old fellow named Cheerful Norman, who ran a pool hall there, became his trainer, and a Ford dealer in town assumed the task of getting Moore a title shot. Eventually, old Jack Kearns, who was of the opinion that black fighters had had their chance back in 1919, came out of the woodwork to become Moore's comanager.