A new champion reigns in boxing's featherweight division, and, of all things, he is an American lad, which is quite a rarity in a division that now has only one other American, Paul Jorgensen, ranked in the National Boxing Association's top 10. The new champ is Davey Moore, called the Springfield Rifle because he hails from Springfield, Ohio and hits like a .30-06 bullet.
He pulled the trigger on Champion Hogan (Kid) Bassey, Nigeria's proud Member of the British Empire, in the sixth round of a bloody fight at Los Angeles' Olympic Auditorium. He was using a double-barreled big-game rifle at the time, a weapon that fired a left hook and a clubbing overhand right with such impact that after the bell a second or so later Bassey was too dazed to find his corner but wandered about the ring like a lost child. His corner, equally dazed, gave him no particular help.
Up to that time Bassey had been winning against a stage-frightened Moore, who had all but trembled with tension at the morning weighin and opened the fight with such awkward stiffness that he twice fell down, in the third and fifth rounds, from the force of his own missed punches. During those early rounds Bassey, a man of dour dignity, looked very much the champion.
Though the fight eventually was stopped, after the 13th round, because Bassey was blinded by his own blood and could no longer see his opponent, it was the sixth-round combination that won it. It gave Moore a world of confidence and it took most of the steam out of Bassey. He seemed, in fact, to be slightly groggy when he came out for the seventh.
This is not to suggest that Moore was a timid fighter at any stage of the bout but only that, for all that he wears a dashing mustache, he is a modest young man, a well-raised minister's son. The thought that he was to fight for the championship, it seemed at the weighin, stuffed his stomach with butterflies. He confessed to tension before the fight, and in those early rounds he seemed to relax only when he was hit hard. Then he raged back and in every such exchange forced Bassey to give ground.
He gained further confidence, after that sixth-round explosion, from the discovery that Bassey is one of the more profuse bleeders of our time. The champion was cut about the eyes and on the cheek, and blood streamed from his broad, flat nose. In the closing rounds the champion made a pathetic figure as he paused from time to time to dab at his eyes in a vain effort to see. Moore, following instructions of his corner, jabbed at the cuts at the start of each round and quickly undid the patchwork surgery of Bassey's corner mates. At the end of the ninth Bassey's manager, George Biddies, a former Liverpool pubkeeper, inquired solicitously if his charge wanted to "retire," which is British for quit.
Bassey refused. He is a gamester and a patriot. It had been his plan, in fact, to make his next defense of the title in Nigeria as part of a national celebration.
So Bassey came out for the next four rounds to take an impressive beating. He hung on through the 10th while Moore banged him with rights and lefts. His white trunks were smeared with red. In the 11th, after Moore had pummeled him with hooks and overhand rights, Bassey recovered enough to score with one good right. But Moore then moved in and began to punish his body with an exhausting tattoo.
Bassey could not find his corner again after the 12th, though it was a round in which his hitherto relentless opponent did very little. One guessed that Moore, now confident of victory, had decided to coast and thus pace himself through the first 15-round fight of his career. He did very little punching in the 13th, too, but very little was necessary. The blind Bassey was in impossible shape.
If it had not been a championship fight Referee Tommy Hart would have stopped it on his own authority. As it was he walked over to the Bassey corner and consulted with George Biddles. "Is he going to make it?" Hart asked. "He's had it," Biddles replied. Bassey made no protest. "I can't see," he complained.