SI Vault
Martin Kane
December 10, 1956
When Floyd Patterson knocked out Archie Moore to become history's youngest heavyweight champion, it was more than a ring triumph, it was also a defeat of the boxing monopoly
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December 10, 1956

The Man The System Could Not Beat

When Floyd Patterson knocked out Archie Moore to become history's youngest heavyweight champion, it was more than a ring triumph, it was also a defeat of the boxing monopoly

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But the student took on the professor and took away his degree.

At the noontime weigh-in Archie looked glum until spoken to, when he brightened like a wallflower who had just been asked to dance. Patterson was serene. He had gone to bed the night before to sleep 11½ hours, so sweetly that Florio let him skip breakfast. He awakened him just in time to dress and be strategically late for the weigh-in. Floyd slept three more hours in the late afternoon and, arriving at his dressing room, took another nap, or seemed to. At any rate his eyes were closed, and remained so, until he was called into the ring.

In his modest robe of blue, trimmed with orange, Floyd looked like a preliminary boy compared to the flamboyant Archie; Archie's mother-in-law had made him a black robe trimmed and lined with cloth of gold. His very pretty wife Joan was at ringside, part of the harmonious ensemble in a cloth-of-gold evening coat. Archie's robe made a sensation that Dior would have envied. The crowd loved it and cheered the man who wore it.

Then the fight began, after a false start caused by the sounding of the 10-second buzzer, normally reserved for a between-rounds warning.

There were 16,248 in Chicago Stadium, 2,000 short of a full house, and most of them had paid money—a gross of $228,145—to see what might happen. After deductions of various sorts the fighters were to get $114,257 each from their shares of the gate and radio-TV receipts. And the winner would get a title estimated to be worth $1 million.

Patterson, a recent convert to Roman Catholicism, knelt and crossed himself, then turned and faced Moore. Moore scored the first effective punch, a right to the head, but the effect was not what he had expected. It was a good right, well delivered, and should have staggered Patterson; but later Floyd could not even remember it. His response was a thunder of punches to the body and head that drove Moore back. He was in charge for the rest of the round, and, as this became clear, Patterson's face wore an impish grin. His combinations, accurate and fast, penetrated Archie's complicated guard. He maneuvered his man like a master and scored especially well with his left hook.

When he came back to his corner D'Amato said to him: "If you make no mistakes from now on you will be the world's champion." It was a reminder of what had been drilled into him in training—"Stay low and cover up as you back away from Moore; keep your right up when you throw a hook; don't give him punching room."

He made no real mistakes. Toward the end of the second round he was a little overanxious as he drove Moore to the ropes and perhaps missed a chance to finish it then. He was hit a couple of times with Moore hooks but he was still in command, and when he ducked under a whistling right it was apparent that Moore would have trouble getting the clean power shot he needed so desperately. In the third round both were cut over the eyes but neither wound was serious, and Patterson again closed the round with a battling barrage, driving Moore to the ropes and, for a parting shot, rocking him with a left hook at the bell. The fourth was distinguished by a Moore right to the head, the only punch of the fight that, in retrospect, impressed Patterson in his dressing-room summation. And in the fifth the end came. You could see it coming.

The round began with a Patterson jab—the others had begun with Archie missing a tentative left each time—and was followed by a Patterson combination that drove Moore back. (Patterson forced Moore to break ground in every round.) Patterson slipped to his knees, perhaps because he was again too eager. Up again, he coolly measured his man. As Moore charged him, Patterson moved easily into position and caught him with a long left hook to the jaw. Moore went down, floored with a single punch. He rose at the count of nine (he is the kind of fighter who gets up) and Patterson was on him again with a left and right to the head, both punches catching Moore as he tried to duck out of their way. Moore went down once more.

There was some dispute as to whether he was up again at the count of nine, as it seemed from this seat, and many others, or whether he was counted out on the floor as Referee Frank Sikora insisted. It didn't matter. Floyd Patterson was indisputably Heavyweight Champion of the World.

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