During lunch I
kept wondering what Archie Moore was up to. I knew that he was in town, not far
away. I thought of him coming closer all the time, physically moving toward our
confrontation, perhaps a quarter of a mile away at the moment, in some
restaurant, ordering a big steak with honey on it for energy. Everybody in the
place would be craning around to stare at him, and smiling a lot because a
month before Moore had won an extraordinary fight against Yvon Durelle, a
strong French Canadian, in which he pulled himself up off the canvas four
times. Applause would ripple up from the tables as he left the restaurant and
he would stroll along feeling good about things, people nodding to him on the
avenues, and smiling, and then he might duck into a Fifth Avenue shop to buy a
hat, and afterward perhaps he'd wander by the Plaza and into the park where he
might take a look at the yak in the zoo. Then he'd glance at his watch. That
might get him upset. It disturbed the equanimity of the day. Who was this guy?
The nerve! This creep who had written him a letter. So the distance would be
shortened; he was coming crosstown now, then up the stairs of Stillman's Gym,
just yards away from me in the labyrinthine gloom of the lockers, and then
finally in the ring, just a few feet away, seeing me for the first time,
looking at me speculatively; and then when he put a fist in my stomach, there
wouldn't be any distance between us at all!
discovered what he had been thinking. Moore had had lunch with Peter Maas, a
journalist friend of mine. Over dessert, he asked Peter who I was—this fellow
he had agreed to go three rounds with. Maas, who knew about the arrangements—I
had invited him to Stillman's—could not resist it: he found himself, somewhat
to his surprise, describing me to Moore as an "intercollegiate boxing
Once Peter had
got that out, he began to warm to his subject. "He's a gawky sort of
guy," he said, "but don't let that fool you, Arch. He's got a left jab
that sticks, he's fast, and he's got a left hook that he can really throw. He's
a barnburner of a fighter, and the big thing about him is that he wants to be
the light-heavyweight champion of the world. Very ambitious. And confident. He
doesn't see why he should work his way up through all the preliminaries in the
tank towns. He reckons he's ready now."
Moore raised his
eyebrows at this.
all his friends," Maas went on gaily, "and a few members of the press.
In front of all these people he's going to waltz into the ring and take you.
What he's done is to sucker you into the ring."
Maas told me all
of this later. He said he had not suspected that he had such satanic
capacities; the story came out quite easily.
Moore finally had
a comment to offer. "If that guy lays a hand on me I'm going to pole-ax
him." He cracked his knuckles alarmingly.
At this, Maas
realized that not unlike Dr. Frankenstein he had created a monster, and after a
somewhat hollow laugh, he tried to undo matters. "Oh, Arch," he said,
"he's a friend of mine." He tried to say that he had been carrying on
in jest. But this served to make Moore even more suspicious—the notion that
Maas and the mysterious stranger with the devastating left hook were in cahoots
of some sort.
At the time, of
course, I knew none of this. I dawdled away the afternoon and arrived early at
Stillman's. George Brown was with me, carrying a little leather case with the
gloves and some "equipment" he felt he might have to use if things got
"difficult" for me in the ring.
We went up the
steps of the building on Eighth Avenue, through the turnstile, and Lou Stillman
led us through the back area of his place into an arrangement of gloomy
dressing cubicles as helter-skelter as a Tangier slum. George Brown sat me down
in a corner and, snapping open his kit bag, got ready to tape my hands. I
worried aloud that Moore might not show up, and both George and I laughed at
the concern in my voice; I sounded like a condemned prisoner fretting that the
fellow in charge of the dawn proceedings might have overslept. We heard people
arriving, the hum of voices beginning to rise. I had let a number of people
know; the word of the strange cocktail-hour exhibition had spread.