If Archie Moore does what he keeps saying he'll do—relieve Rocky Marciano of his heavyweight title—he'll be the first man to write as well as fight his way to the championship. When he climbs into the ring, sporting his resplendent robe and Mephistophelian mustache on the night of the 20th, it will not only climax a notable 20-year career but a personal publicity campaign that has poured across the desk of American sportswriters literally bushels of telegrams, letters, posters, circulars—some $50,000 worth of words calling all sports editors to come to the aid of Archie Moore in his quest to tangle with Rocky for the championship of the world.
The stuff that cascaded from Archie's headquarters was, by turn, witty, indignant, insulting, bombastic, factual, imaginative—the super Press Agent from Steve Hannagan to Russell Birdwell could hardly have done it better. If Archie wins this fight it would seem only simple gratitude that the Post Office issue an Archie Moore commemorative stamp, for in a nine-month campaign Archie has written hundreds of sportswriters and sportscasters two or three times a week and has single-handedly swelled the coffers (I've always wanted to set eyes on a coffer, by the way) of the U.S. mails. And Western Union could afford to declare a special dividend for Archie, who fires telegrams with the speed and cuteness he employs in throwing left and right hooks. The Bell Telephone Company hasn't done too badly either, for Archie is an articulate refutation of the stereotype pug who grunts "Hokay" when the manager gives him the old line, "You do the fightin' and I'll do the managin'." Archie, who was fighting for money when Marciano was 12 years old, handles the fighting, the training, the promoting and the talking.
Six months ago, when Al Weill was giving Archie Moore the usual brush and trying to decide which bum—Nino Valdes or Don Cockell—was the best meat for Rocky, Moore started talking up his rights again. He ridiculed Weill's hand-picked opponents by offering to fight Valdes and Cockell the same night—a challenge that smacked of the good old days when boxers really challenged each other and matches weren't booked mechanically in offices as vaudeville acts are. Archie phoned Pat Harmon, sports editor of the Cincinnati Post, saying he would be flying into Cincinnati to launch a petition of 100 sports editors willing to plump for Marciano to meet Mr. Outside-Looking-In instead of trumped-up importations like Valdes and Cockell.
THE AMA FOR THE AAM
Harmon enlisted in the Archie Moore Association for the Advancement of Archie Moore and blasted Weilly Al for ignoring the only man in the heavyweight ranks who seemed to have a reasonable chance of standing up to the bruiser from Brockton. But despite the verbal fireworks, Archie was seemingly getting no closer to the pot of gold at the end of the heavyweight rainbow. The AMA for the AAM (backed all along by our APPPFF) faced a sturdy roadblock in the chesty-close-to-the-vesty Mr. Weill. In the dressing room after the depressing Cockell affair, Al looked his interviewers in the eye and allowed as how the next logical opponent for Rocky might be Bob Baker. But Archie Moore had knocked Baker out and had beaten Valdes twice? Weill dialed out the question as if he were wearing an invisible hearing aid.
But Archie Moore is a stubborn, patient man. A formidable middleweight, whose only shot at the middleweight championship was canceled by ulcers, the No. 1 light heavyweight contender carefully by-passed by the light heavyweight champions a decade or so ago, Archie had learned the hard way that the better you were the less chance you had to get in there for the big one. It had happened to Harry Wills and George Godfrey. The fight game always has had a tough club of guys-ya-want-no-part-of—Charlie Burley, Curtis (Hatchet Man) Shepperd, Holman Williams, Lloyd Marshall. In California we had a fella called Jack Chase who met Archie Moore half a dozen times between '42 and '47—69 rounds of the toughest fighting you'll ever see. Year after year, fighting into his deep thirties, Archie handled the ones nobody wanted no part of—guys you never heard of who would chase Bobo Olson out of the ring. Fought 'em with everything he had for no money until one day he got to Toledo to fight somebody they billed as the Alabama Kid. It had taken Archie 12 years and nearly 100 fights to get Archie Moore to Toledo. The purse for the Alabama Kid thing was a lousy $300. "Let's face it, I was never going to get a shot at the title," Archie has written of those hungry days. "I was never going to be a champion, except in my heart."
What Archie didn't know, the night he bowled over the Alabama Kid for nickels was that Toledo housed a fellow by the name of Bob Reese, a prosperous Ford dealer who was waiting to play Fairy Godmother to Archie's Cinderella. Archie had seven fights in Toledo in 12 months, batting 1,000 with five knockouts, including such eminent victims as Bob Satterfield and Jimmy Bivens. But he won more. He won the support of this Bob Reese whose motor company eventually became the headquarters for his publicity campaign. Reese bankrolled the Archie Moore story. He wrote a lot of the copy, set up a staff of secretaries to keep the letters and wires flowing, issued catchy posters such as "Wanted—Wanted—Wanted—REWARD for Capture and Delivery of Rocky Marciano to Any Ring in the World for the Purpose of Defending His Heavyweight Championship against the Logical contender, Archie Moore. Reward: the Boxing Public Will See a Great Fight and Witness the Crowning of a New Champion. Advise (Sheriff) ARCHIE MOORE."
A STUDY IN IRONY
Archie's career has been a study in irony and never more so than two months ago when his fortunes took a sudden upward turn. He had been knocking out overrated heavyweights and light heavyweights for years, but his unprecedented $50,000 publicity campaign might have gone down the drain if he had not disposed of Bobo Olson, a run-of-the-mill middleweight champion who borrows the mantle of greatness in a day when TV and un inspiring promoting has brought us down to what might be called the Chuck Davey-Tommy Collins Era. Archie had knocked out scores of fighters better than Bobo but at the propitious moment Olson provided the ideal sacrifice to the gods of public opinion.
All his fighting life Archie was kept out of the big arenas on the spurious argument that he was long on ability but short on B.O. appeal. Now, largely through his efforts, he and Marciano figure to draw the biggest gate since the golden days of Louis. He may not win when he finally gets in there with Rocky, two weeks from next Tuesday night. But win or lose, Archie Moore is the all-time Communications Champion of the world of sport.
"He's fast, all right. Now if we can just teach him to get off the ground...."