You could count on the thumbs of two boxing gloves the number of prizefighters now around who shine with the radiance of the old masters. One is Sugar Ray Robinson. The other is Archie Moore. Some few more are competent but even in their declining years these two, in victory or defeat, are magnificent.
The magnificence of Archie Moore was clear to see the other night in the Montreal Forum. In the very ring where last winter he had all but surrendered his light heavyweight championship to the clumsy but hard punching of Yvon Durelle, the hero of French Canada, Archie took instant and effective command. On that December night Archie was downed four times, then rose and, with a groggy gesture of noblesse oblige, knocked out Durelle. Downed four times on this August night, Durelle was unable to rise the fourth time and was counted out by Referee Jack Sharkey.
As Archie put it afterward, with the sweet venom of one who has been gracelessly annoyed by a peasant, "You should not enter a mule in a race at Santa Anita."
A few weeks before the return bout, Archie had dropped into Jack Dempsey's restaurant in New York to entertain a group of well-wishers with his prevision of the fight. He was seething at Durelle, who was saying absurd things about long counts and other vain tricks that, Durelle professed, cheated him of victory in their first fight. But Archie chose to speak of revenge only in parables. He recalled to his listeners Aesop's fable of the wolf and the lamb, in which the lamb sought with simple logic to establish that he was innocent of wrongdoing to the wolf and, therefore, should not be eaten.
"I was drinking in the stream," the wolf snarled, as Archie remembers the quotes, "and you muddied it."
"But you were drinking upstream," the lamb replied so shrewdly.
"Well, I'm about to eat you anyway," the wolf quipped back at him.
Archie pondered a moment and then made his pronouncement.
"It doesn't matter what Durelle says," he proclaimed. "I'll eat him anyway."
Here and there you could find an excuse for Durelle's grumbling. The return fight had been twice postponed—once because Archie developed a psychosomatic condition of the right heel, caused by an excess of weight on his feet and resultant emotional distress at the thought of cutting out food altogether in the time left to him to get back down to 175 pounds. Then there had been a much more serious postponement because of an emergency mastoid operation on his wife, Joan, who recovered so well and so quickly as to be refreshingly present at the fight, a white orchid on her left shoulder matching the white bandage about her right ear. Only when the problem of his beloved's welfare was off his mind did Archie go back to training.