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'TRAGEDY IS A THING FIGHTERS MUST LIVE WITH'
Little Davey Moore sat on the edge of the rubbing table in his dressing room at Dodger Stadium. Except for a bloodshot left eye, his face was unmarked. It was hard to believe that he had just lost his world featherweight championship in a savage fight with Sugar Ramos, a Cuban expatriate. The fight had been scheduled for 15 rounds, but in the 10th Moore took such a pounding that his manager, Willie Ketchum, asked the referee to stop it after the bell rang for the end of the round.
Yet for all the battering Moore had taken, here he was, last Thursday night, talking and joking with reporters while Ketchum rubbed him down with a towel. "I'll take the rematch, you better believe it," Moore said. "Look, you guys know that when I'm right nothing gets to me. Not nothing. I was off. That's it plain and simple." He laughed and added, "Just like you writers, if you'd only admit it. Can't write a lick some days. Well, that was me tonight. I just wasn't up to my best."
The newsmen jotted down the quotes and left. The Moore-Ramos fight was only the second of three championship bouts on one card, and the final fight, between Roberto Cruz of the Philippines and Battling Torres of Mexico—for the so-called junior welterweight title—was ready to start. But no sooner had the reporters hurried out than Moore clasped both hands to the back of his head and cried out to Ketchum, "My head, Willie! My head! It hurts something awful!" With that, he collapsed into unconsciousness. Ketchum called for an ambulance, and Moore was taken to White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles.
On Monday morning, 75 hours later, Davey Moore died—the second world champion to lose his life within a year. Last March Benny Paret died from the battering he got from Emile Griffith in their welterweight championship fight in Madison Square Garden. Ever since then, boxing has been under fire, particularly in California, where Governor Pat Brown called for abolition of the sport after Heavyweight Alejandro Lavorante was knocked into a coma last September. Still unconscious, Lavorante slumbers in a hospital only a few miles from Moore's deathbed.
As might have been expected, Governor Brown was quick to issue a statement on the Moore affair. Before the press and TV cameras he again demanded the abolition of boxing, which he termed a "barbaric spectacle," and said he would seek to have the voters ban it. To do this he must persuade the state legislature to put his proposal on the ballot as a constitutional amendment. The earliest this can be done is next year.
Sol Silverman, a San Francisco attorney named by the governor to investigate boxing, publicly disagreed. Instead of abolishing the sport, Silverman suggested that the State Athletic Commission adopt new safety measures. "Professional boxing," he said, "has a chance by cleaning itself up to take a part in the President's physical fitness program."
However, there were many echoes of Governor Brown's demand. Senator Kefauver planned to reintroduce his bill for federal regulation. In Paris a headline read DAVEY MOORE LATEST VICTIM OF FIGHT MOB. The semiofficial Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, condemned boxing as "morally illicit," and on the next day Pope John himself denounced fistfighting as "contrary to natural principles."
By a ghoulish quirk, Emile Griffith, the fighter who started the uproar last year by battering Paret, was on the same championship card as Moore. He and Luis Rodriguez, another Cuban expatriate, met in the first fight for the welterweight title. There was a fine crowd of more than 26,000 on hand, most of them Cuban or Mexican fanáticos, who had come with castanets, maracas, bongo drums and horns to urge the Latin fighters to victory. The Rodriguez-Griffith fight was close. When Rodriguez got the decision the fanáticos whooped it up.
The Davey Moore-Sugar Ramos fight aroused the fanáticos to an even higher pitch. Moore had been an outstanding champion, and he was favored 2 to 1. But Ramos, only 21 years old, came into the ring with a remarkable record: 40 victories, one draw, 30 knockouts in 41 fights. Four years ago, in Havana, a preliminary fighter named Tigre Blanco died after Ramos knocked him out.