And so in 1952, after 16½ years, 139 victories (94 by knockout), and now with a well-connected manager, Moore had the proper credentials to fight for a championship. That was the way it worked In Them Days.
In his corner, just before he was introduced as the challenger for the light heavyweight crown, Moore searched the crowd. He spotted them: an older black couple sitting together in the ringside seats. Moore had paid to have them brought to St. Louis for the fight. A police car had picked them up and, sirens blaring, had sped them to the St. Louis Arena.
The two people were Moore's parents. The ring announcer stepped out and the bell rang, but Moore kept staring down, because for the first time in his life, he was seeing his mother and father together. "Reconciliation was highly unlikely," he says. "I knew that. But I just wanted my father and my mother to see me win the title, together. I wanted to look down on them, next to each other, at that moment. And I did.
"So that was another victory for me that night too, wouldn't you say?"
Moore looked from his parents, ringside, toward Maxim, across the canvas, and then he moved toward the champion in the center of the ring.
After 15 rounds the announcer took the microphone and called for the ballots. It was a unanimous decision. As soon as the second card was read, Kearns grabbed the new champ and tried to hoist him into the air. Disdainfully, Moore backed away from the old man. "Turn me loose," he snapped. "Don't you do that, Jack. Just slip my robe on my shoulders. There's nothing to get excited about. I could've won this thing 12 years ago if I'd had the chance. This is nothing new to me. Just be cool."
Then he turned away from Kearns and looked back out into the crowd. He looked at his mother, and he looked at his father, the man who had deserted him when he was a baby. "What do you suppose he was thinking?" Moore says. "I've always wondered, what do you suppose my father was thinking at the moment when he was sitting by my mother and he saw that the son he left had become the champion of the world?"
The car eases down the rain-slicked streets of Los Angeles. The passenger in purple has been residing (between paydays) in Southern California for almost a half-century now, and even if he had more prizefights than Marciano, Ali, Frazier and Tyson combined, he is everywhere a gentleman of caution and discretion. "Watch it now," he says. "A lot of people out here don't know how to drive in the rain." And: "There's no need for these cars to go so fast." And: "Better put your blinker on now, so they can see."
His pickup truck is in a service station. "A little further here. Now, start to take your turn. Easy, easy." He is returning home to the former Joan Hardy, with whom he will spend his remaining 30 years, going on. Whatever disappointments there might have been in the past have faded by now.
"No," the Mongoose says, "in many ways I was glad that I had to wait for my chance. If I had won the title when I was 21, 22, I would've been called a flash in the pan, and maybe I would've felt I had nothing more to prove. But here I am, over 70 years old, and you're still writing about me.