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Martin Kane
November 26, 1956
Archie Moore comes up to his goal, the heavyweight championship of the world, for the last time and, at age 39, must win it against the odds of youth. Floyd Patterson, at 21, has speed and endurance going for him
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November 26, 1956

Last Chance For Old Arch

Archie Moore comes up to his goal, the heavyweight championship of the world, for the last time and, at age 39, must win it against the odds of youth. Floyd Patterson, at 21, has speed and endurance going for him

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But Patterson does have a basic trouble that could cost him dear. It is The Gazelle Punch, a Patterson original. (See drawings on page 35.) He has used it in just about all of his fights and still uses it in training, despite the agonies of D'Amato and Trainer Dan Florio, who are embarrassed by it. They have pleaded with him, but Patterson is a rackle lad. The punch, if that is the word for a blow delivered in mid-flight, is something on the order of a flying jab, though he may throw it as a right-hand lead too. It starts from a giveaway crouch, in which one of Patterson's feet is drawn far back and thus signals what is to come, and ends, when it misses, with Patterson scrambling his feet in an effort to recover balance. When it lands, no particular harm is done except to orthodoxy. The Gazelle has proved to be safe, though inane, against nonpunchers like Hurricane Jackson, but against Moore it could be suicidal. During his airborne period Floyd is wide open for a devastating counter which could slam him to the canvas stone-cold dead.

No opponent has yet countered it properly, and fighters, Pavlov-trained or not, learn mostly from experience. Patterson, thus far safe in using it, believes in the punch. But in his brief career he has been exposed to few who knew enough to counter it, save for Joey Maxim; and Maxim, though he outpointed Floyd by official judgment, never had any more punch than a house cat. Patterson has yet to meet a boxer-puncher like Moore, who will be laying for The Gazelle and knows what to do about it.

The unguided missile assault is not Patterson's only weakness. It is only his most obvious weakness. He can be countered also in other ways, as when, throwing a left hook, his right glove paws an area a yard from his unprotected head, high or low. There is no question that Moore will have opportunity to connect with a good punch.

Can Patterson take a good punch? Even he does not know. He has not been tested.

Patterson has his weaknesses then, but mostly he has strong points. He has, most obviously, youth. A faithful trainee between his infrequent bouts, Floyd should be in superb condition for this one. Youth and condition are sound assets, especially in a 15-round fight. Taken alone they would not be enough to dispose of Moore if Patterson were not, additionally, an excellent fighter. His hands are so fast that even Moore's magnificent ability to duck and slip punches, even Archie's fine blocking, cannot always prevail against them. Patterson does not, like Marciano, punch wildly. He has a specific target in mind at every moment, basing his attack on the "steady roll" principle-assault without surcease on the vital areas of the sides, the belly and the jaws. His combinations are calculated to punish an opponent in these sensitive spots.

But Archie is confident that he can avoid them. Wherever he goes he takes with him a film of the Marciano fight, and one night, after a stirring game of bagatelle in which he won 70� (he is perhaps our finest pinball machine player), Archie ran off the film. In the accompanying lecture he contended that in one round he caused Marciano to miss 29 straight punches. The badly cut film actually did show 12 straight misses in one prolonged assault, but its editing (it is an official IBC version) so favored Marciano that it seemed to have been prepared for screening by Al Weill. Archie's count could be accurate.

Moore is naturally proud of his defensive showing against the ring's most relentless punch thrower, but he makes a foolish virtue of the fact that in the ninth round he succumbed to Marciano's onslaught and was counted out.

"I was not knocked out," Archie insists. "I never lost consciousness. I just went down from exhaustion."

That is quite true, but not necessarily advantageous to Archie in his present situation. It provides a clue to the likely pattern of the coming fight. Patterson's corner anticipates that Archie will do his old act—an imitation of the chambered nautilus, in which he peers coyly out of his protective shell while awaiting the precise instant to change magically into a ravening tiger and explode a lethal punch or two. The Patterson corner is aware that no heavyweight of today, except perhaps the newcomer Eddie Machen, can launch a finishing punch so suddenly and unexpectedly. But while Archie is crouching low, using arms, elbows and gloves to block in his own peculiarly effective style, ducking and weaving away from head blows with unwavering eyes ever on what's coming at him, Patterson will almost certainly be applying the precious lesson of the Marciano fight. It is, very simply, that a strong young fighter can lick an older man by using the unrelenting pressure that Rocky vented to take the last ounce of strength from his aging opponent. It is a dangerous strategy, as Marciano discovered when he was suddenly floored and knocked stupid in the second round, but it worked.


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