Just an olympiad ago, in 1952, which was the year Archie Moore won the light heavyweight championship of the world with style and grace, Floyd Patterson stepped down the ramp from the Helsinki Flyer, a proud and happy boy of 17. He had just won the Olympic middleweight boxing championship for the United States. Now, only four years and 31 professional fights later, Patterson is to fight Moore for the world's heavyweight championship. Floyd's rise has been swift.
Against its swiftness, Moore's has been a slow and painful drag, now uphill, now down. Archie has had something like 160 fights. "So many," he says wearily, "I just stopped counting." He has lost some by decision and some by knockout. He has won most by power and guile. A year ago last September he lost the biggest of them all to Champion Rocky Marciano, since retired. Now Moore's chance has come again. It may be too late.
For if Patterson beats Moore at the Chicago Stadium on the night of November 30, Patterson will be, at 21, the youngest ever to win the heavyweight championship. But it is ominous that if Moore beats Patterson he will be the oldest, even at his official age of 39, to take the title. Young or old, young is better, as Joe E. Lewis might say.
No heavyweight title bout ever has seen such extremes. They are not merely extremes of age and youth. One must go well back into heavyweight history to find packed into one mind and body the polished skills and ripe ring wisdom of Archie Moore. He has developed them over a score or more of years in fighting around the world, in Tasmania, Buenos Aires, Melbourne, Milwaukee and all such exotic places, wherever a matchmaker could find an opponent willing to meet him. Patterson admits that by comparison he is an unlettered tyro, though a studious one. "I still have a lot to learn," he said after his Hurricane Jackson fight.
Now the modest tyro, a fellow of few words, and the publicly boastful veteran, a man of many, are training in Chicago for what could spell the final defeat of Moore's career-long campaign for a championship worthy of his talents, the beginning of a reign of youth in the heavyweight division.
Moore will make a sturdy effort to keep obstreperous youth in its place. He began training gently, almost creakily, a few weeks back at his mountain ranch in southern California but stepped up the pace once he reached Chicago's Midwest Gym and sniffed blood in the air—from the stockyards, perhaps, or from IBC's stadium. He had treated sparring partners tenderly in California. In Chicago he blasted them to the canvas, even such sturdy fellows as Crowe Peele, an LSU heavy recently turned promising pro. He took off girth which in California split trunks and sweat pants one afternoon when he bent his haunches in that old familiar crouch. He curbed his passion for homemade vanilla ice cream, until after the fight. There's blood in his eye, these recent days, and protein in his diet.
Patterson, paying slight obeisance to Maestro Moore as a "patient fighter," trained at Sportsman's Park, a race track, under the eye of his shrewd manager, Cus D'Amato, who reads Freud and wears a Homburg. D'Amato's psychologically oriented upbringing of Patterson has followed the Pavlov principle, long honored in the training of dog acts. Every time Floyd fights well Cus rewards him with a gift, thus setting up a conditioned reflex. One recent day, after watching his fighter ride a palomino lead pony around the race track, Cus decided to present him with a saddle horse should he win the championship. Since Patterson is fond of horses and rides well, this promise presumably will set him to drooling like a Pavlov puppy when the timekeeper sounds the opening bell.
Patterson does his road work on the race track, boxes in a ring set up in the track's grandstand penthouse and sleeps in a jockey's room. Each night as he goes to bed D'Amato pulls his own bed across the entrance to Floyd's room and remains there until morning.
"I know I sound crazy guarding him like that," D'Amato explains, with a precautionary look over his shoulder at the menace of Chicago, "but I hear all these stories and you never know."
Patterson, like Moore, batted his sparring partners around as he always does and had no problems of weight or condition. His broken right hand gave no trouble.