In the next round we began to see the Marciano of the Walcott and Charles ordeals, a terrible figure immune to blood and pain, accepting hard blows casually, as if they were a trivial price to pay for the glory and wealth that ride with the title. Rocky was stalking Archie, missing three out of four but shaking the old campaigner when he landed. Archie Moore was employing all the skills he had accumulated and they were wonderful to watch. There were moments when he played with Rocky and made him look amateurish. That little smile would spread across his face as he slipped Marciano's blockbusters and countered with quick-handed combinations. But this round was a turning point, for it proved that no matter how brilliantly Archie boxed he could not stop the champion's forward progress. He could not prevent the champion from jarring him. The science of self-defense was inadequate to the problem of how to stop a human tank like Marciano from running over him.
It was a vicious Marciano that sprang forward in the fourth, a bare-knuckle throwback hurling at Archie's head a relentless stream of clumsily effective punches. Archie knows a dozen ways to avoid a punch, ducking, slipping, rolling with a punch, picking it off; and over and over again he would bring his right arm up just in time to block a clubbing left hook.
But to boxing's science we may now have to add the Marciano law of saturation. You may get out of the way of nine punches but the tenth will break through and find you. Marciano, wild and clumsy though he may be, is such a voluminous puncher that the cleverest of his opponents has to be hit and hurt every so often. Rocky wears his men down like a hydraulic drill attacking a boulder. But the challenger was an elusive target in the fifth round, making Rocky miss and peppering him with straight lefts, reminding the audience once more of his boxing superiority. He was making all the right moves and the champion, after two strong rounds, seemed to be floundering. "Keep boxing him, boy, you can take him," Featherweight Champion Sandy Saddler shouted to his stablemate as Moore moved back to his corner.
A BATTERED, BEATEN PUGILIST
When the sixth round started, it was still a close fight. When the round was over, after Marciano had punched from bell to bell as if he were working out on a heavy bag, it was no longer. Archie was a battered, beaten pugilist. He had been knocked down twice, one eye had been closed and the right side of his face was painfully swollen. His right arm was too weary to rise to the occasion of Rocky's vicious left hooks, and he had caught dozens of them as the champion turned on a demonstration of continuous punching that had to be seen to be believed. The Moore-Marciano fight may prove to the buffs that there is simply no defense for this kind of pressure. The tiring challenger rose gallantly to face his punishment. Only generous supplies of courage and defensive wisdom allowed him to stagger back to his corner. Oddly enough, Rocky was staggering too. Try punching a heavy bag for three minutes as fast as you can without stopping and you'll know why.
Archie Moore sagged onto his stool and there was Dr. Vincent Nardiello leaning over him, suggesting that the fight was over. But Archie is a prideful man. Pride was the only stake he had to hold on to through the frustration years. So he invoked it now, and asked for the privilege of being counted out. "Like a champion," he said. He did not want to be waved out of the ring on a doctor's certificate. And as if to prove his right to continue, he carried the fight to Marciano in the seventh with a series of slick combinations.
But the Rock is well-named, a discouraging man to fight, taking your best punches and then walking into you with both hands swinging. "He's a tank. A monster," people around me were saying. He knocked Archie down again but Referee Kessler ruled it a slip. It didn't matter. Archie could sneak-punch and flurry, and it was a brave thing to see, but the sick-sad look of defeat had begun to shadow his eyes.
The last four minutes of the fight provided a cruel, crescendoing coda. Marciano was a battering ram and old Archie was a crumbling wall. "How long can he stand that punishment?" was the only question remaining to be decided. A merciless right hook drove the battered challenger back to the canvas, where he was still squatting, an abject figure of defeat, when the harsh bell prolonged the ordeal by ending the round a bare four seconds before the count of 10.
A dying tiger, still dangerous in his final few seconds of life, Archie fought back in the ninth, but Rocky closed in, broadsiding ponderous rights and lefts until at last the remarkable middle-aged light-heavyweight champion slumped down in his own corner, exactly where his stool would have been at the end of the round, a fatally wounded animal crawling back to its lair. There he was counted out, conscious but with the will to fight on beaten out of him at last.
It is a humiliating experience to be knocked into a stupor in public, and it was interesting to see how quickly Archie Moore reassembled the blocks of his dignity. Putting aside his agony and disappointment, he strode into his dressing room like a dramatic star coming in after the final curtain call. "Gentlemen, I'll be with you in a minute," he said with a jauntiness that belied his appearance. Then he was back, standing on a table like the Chautauqua character he is, insisting that he enjoyed the fight. "I think Rocky enjoyed it," he added. "I hope the public enjoyed it too."