When Doc Kearns, a man with the mien of a funeral director and the soul of a cunning playboy, ruled boxing through the fists of Jack Dempsey and Mickey Walker, there were million-dollar gates and $100,000 side bets. Champagne bubbled over the rims of a thousand happy glasses.
For a little while last week there was champagne again but those who drank it were wearing rented dinner jackets. There was Kearns, though, his gaunt and sallow head bent forward, as befits a man who has spent a long lifetime counting the till, and there was jollity in hotel suites, as is fitting on the nights just before a big fight. But the jollity was diminished by the fact that this was no big fight at all. It was instead a frowsy, synthetic contest of little import. It opposed Archie Moore, pretender to the heavyweight championship of the world, and James J. Parker, pretender to the heavyweight championship of the British Empire. Neither claim has official status. Archie is No. 1 but Parker is not even ranked.
The bout was, nonetheless, billed as for the heavyweight championship. Even old Archie could speak of this only with a grin. The billing was part of the ballyhoo and the ballyhoo sprang from the profusely devious mind of Dr. Kearns, who imported Jack Solomons, the London promoter, to sauce the affair with hot English mustard, and invented a score of promotional fillips to titillate the people. Standing by with a ready supply of cash to guarantee the whims of Kearns was Dave Rush, a man who is accustomed to dealing in low-priced uranium stocks and thus might be considered as in his element at this affair. Mr. Rush had previously induced Honest Bill Daly to part with a large share of Parker's contract.
The Kearns pitch made the fight irresistible to the people of Toronto, in whose Maple Leaf Stadium it was held. They got their money's worth in showmanship. There were, for instance, those rented evening clothes supplied along with white carnation boutonnieres to the more amenable members of the working press (though most, indeed, balked at working in costume). There were orchids for ringside blondes. There was Rocky Marciano, pretending to write about the fight for the Toronto Telegram. There were searchlights stabbing the sky and red carpets leading to ringside. When Parker marched in, the ball park was darkened, a spotlight picked out his robe of blue and white silk, and he was escorted by a band of piping Highlanders. Seconds later Moore, who had had his fire engine red Thunderbird flown in from San Diego to ease the training tedium, appeared in not one, but two robes, the outer layer being of cerise and viridian green satin, the inner of black and gold. Moore was escorted by a U.S. Air Force delegation.
And all for what? All for the Canadian dollar, which is worth three percent more than the U.S. variety. The fight drew 148,500 of these expensive dollars and 21,437 fans, the biggest crowd ever to see a fight in Canada.
It was called a fight. It was, rather, a contest between Moore and Whitey Bimstein, the virtuoso cut man in Parker's corner. In the fourth round, throwing right-hand leads with the abandon of one who knows that no harm can come to him, Moore opened a cut on Parker's left eyelid, a real gusher of a cut with blood spurting from two tiny arteries. Between rounds thereafter Whitey performed miracles of minor surgery, staunching the flow each time. And in the opening seconds of each succeeding round Moore would flick out a right or a left—it didn't matter which—and start the flow again, a blinding outpouring through which Parker could see only a crimson haze. This blindness on the left side was one reason why Moore landed so many rights. The other was that the inexperienced Parker (he has had less than two score fights) could not cope with a man who has fought 155 times.
That Parker survived until the bout was stopped, after two minutes and two seconds of the ninth round, was due largely to his courage but raised a suspicion that Archie's gold mine of punching power has begun to peter out. This was not the Puncher Moore who decked Marciano. To be sure, he spotted his target better than 25 pounds (Moore 186½, Parker 211¼) but even so something was missing.
Toward the end Archie quit trying for a clean knockout. In a gesture of gallantry, and perhaps with just a trifle of arm weariness, he refused to continue the assault when Parker was clearly on the verge of helplessness. He did this in the eighth round and again in the ninth, just before the end. It was the Moore way of cocking a sportsman's snoot at those in the crowd who had booed his entrance. It won him a burst of admiring applause.
"In the last round, and before the last round," Moore explained later, "he floundered, but I did not take undue advantage. They booed me unmercifully [actually only a few did, but Archie is a sensitive man] and I wanted to show them I could be a sportsman."
NEXT "DEFENSE": PATTERSON
So did James J. Parker prove he was a sportsman—a fellow of splendid courage who refused to fall.
What did the fight prove? It proved that aging Archie has by no means disappeared over the hill. He forced the fighting and moved constantly but his legs, covered by long black trunks that reached almost to his knees, showed no obvious weakness.
As to the impending September bout with Floyd Patterson, Archie would prefer to have it in California rather than in New York, as the International Boxing Club (James D. Norris, president) has planned.
Archie is, of course, convinced he can beat Patterson. He notes that Patterson weighed only 178 pounds in beating Hurricane Jackson, and that there still are traces of amateurish weakness in Patterson's style. He will go into training now at his San Diego camp and, brushing the impending championship fight aside as a mere incident, looks gaily forward to a fall and winter Grand Tour of Europe, in which he will meet selected opponents.
He may not yet be officially the champion, but he is, at any rate, the very picture of a champion—serene, confident, poised and with plenty of Canadian dollars in his pocket.
CANADIAN CHORUS of promoters and managers: Charley Johnston, Honest Bill Daly, Solomons, Kearns. Note inelegant cuffs, shoes.