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When I go in there I never worry about what he's gonna do. I know what he's gonna do.
"I'm a stylist. I can cope with any situation.
"Nobody's been stronger than me in there. The fella might be bigger, heavier. But he ain't any stronger."
This training camp confidence of Archie Moore, challenger, has been a glove flicked in the face of history, an outrageous insolence. It is against the odds and the gods that Archie Moore can win the world heavyweight championship. For if he should beat Champion Rocky Marciano at Yankee Stadium on the night of Sept. 20 Moore will be the first light-heavyweight champion ever to rise above his station and, even at his official and suspect age of 38, the oldest fighter ever to win the title. He will, furthermore, have defeated one of the roughest barroom brawlers the game has recently seen, a man who never has been defeated as a professional (Coley Wallace beat Marciano in amateur days), has been knocked down only once and has won 42 of his 48 bouts by knockouts.
(There are weaknesses in the structure of the argument for Marciano though. Most of his brief record was made against unknowns in the way stations of New England fight clubs. He is, in fact, compounded of all that makes a club fighter—heedless of defense, a hard-charging, free-swinging mass of aggression. The name fighters Marciano defeated—Joe Louis, Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles—were over the hill by the time Rocky got to them. And he was astonishingly unable to deliver a finishing blow to the inept, helpless Don Cockell last May, though Rocky threw his best outlaw punches without fear of retaliation. The referee, not Marciano, stopped that fight. Cockell was on his feet at the end.)
Moore's confidence, endemic to his Berkshire Hills camp, is based less on an underestimation of Marciano than on a sure self-knowledge that Archie Moore is one of the all-time great boxers of his weight, a master strategist, a superb tactician, a brilliant technician, a sturdy, scientific puncher. Archie will tell you he is any and all of these. To a surprising extent he is.
He knows all the punches and throws them hard and beautifully in a style which, while classic, he has modified to his own taste. He sets up the opposing fighter to receive what Archie wants to give him. He tricks him into throwing punches Archie wants to counter. He advances according to plan, retreats only to previously prepared positions. But he has been beaten and hence he can be beaten. Ezzard Charles did it three times when Charles was at his peak. Harold Johnson—recently fed a poisoned orange in Philadelphia (SI, May 30)—beat Moore and so did Henry Hall, Leonard Morrow, Holman Williams and Jimmy Bivins, among others. Moore beat them all but Charles in return bouts and in any case, his friends say, Archie sometimes fought on a wholly inadequate diet. Now he is hungry in another sense. He eats well, especially since his Bobo Olson payday, but Archie's appetite for the heavyweight championship is enormous. How will he get it? By using, he says, all he has learned in 20 years of fighting the world over, from Tasmania to Toledo. He is convinced he can hit Marciano almost at will, that Marciano cannot hit him.
Moore on heavyweights:
"You're fightin' heavyweights, don't forget you're hittin' a stationary target. The fellas I fought, you can't hardly hit 'em. Some of 'em you can't hardly hit with a handful of rice—fellas like Holman Williams, like the Cocoa Kid—'less you plan your punches.
"Fight heavyweights, I don't have any trouble hittin' 'em. Take Bob Baker. They say he was to be one of the best young heavyweights—boxin' style. Time I got through with him he was a bloated bloody mess. I didn't have no trouble hittin' Nino Valdes and I weighed 196 then. Marciano isn't goin' to be any trouble for me.... Course, all the time you got to exercise a certain amount of caution you're in there with a puncher like that."