When a champion rises from the canvas to toddle about like a baby learning to walk, when the roaring in his ears is not alone the roar of the crowd, when his opponent looms vague and ugly through red haze, when his arms neither block nor punch but only flop, when he is felled again and rises once more and then goes down a third time from still another crushing blow, he would be forgiven by any decent person if he then stayed down and sadly heard the referee toll the end of his championship, the final round of his career.
He would especially be forgiven if, like Archie Moore, the light heavyweight champion of the world, he was very probably the oldest titleholder in modern ring history, had held his title long and had defended it honorably against the best in his division. But Archie Moore has a kingly heart. To be able to rise and to rise are one and the same to him.
Some of the other great champions of prizefighting have risen from the canvas to retain their titles. Jack Dempsey did it against Luis Firpo, Gene Tunney did it against Dempsey, and there have been others. But none has risen so magnificently or from such deep depths as did Archie Moore last Wednesday night in Montreal.
He had entered the ring against Yvon Durelle, the hero of French Canada, with the published odds a prohibitive 3 to 1 in his favor. Small bettors may have observed those odds, but men with important money to wager could not find them. Big bettors were working at 1� to 1 because those of them who favored Moore lacked full confidence in him. They suspected shrewdly that Archie, fighting only two days before what may have been his 43rd, his 46th, or his 49th birthday, depending on whose computation you accept, might have reached the end of his long, hard road leaning enfeebled on a concealed cane. (He arrived at the weighin, as a matter of fact, carrying a silver-topped walking stick but he was wearing a dinner jacket and his manner was as jaunty as the attire.)
So a syndicate of patriotic habitants from Durelle's home province, New Brunswick, was able to bet only $12,000 of the $27,000 they had carried to Montreal in the hope of returning with, say, $80,000 more. They returned with $12,000 less.
They were almost right. At the end of the first round they were regretting that they had not made good use of their remaining $15,000 by offering solid odds on Durelle. In the minute between the first and second rounds any of the 8,484 fans who had paid $89,940 to see the fight would have agreed with them.
After announcements in French and English to accommodate bilingual Montreal, Archie came off his stool slim-hipped and flat-bellied. In just two months he had, by witchcraft which is his secret, trained down from a gross 206 pounds to a trim 173�. Durelle weighed 172.
At that moment the champion was all but insolently confident. Durelle, on the other hand, seemed to know his place in ring society, even though he is a successful commercial fisherman, owner of four fine boats, and the first citizen of New Brunswick's Baie Ste. Anne, owner of the town's first TV set and first flush toilet. But it is well known that when Durelle throws a hook it is more likely to catch a haddock than an experienced boxer. He is an awkward fellow, what they call rough and durable.
Archie carried his left hand low because some fighters are thereby tempted to throw a right-hand lead when they see the left side of his jaw so sweetly exposed. Archie then catches the right-hand lead in the palm of his right glove and fields them back a deadening left hook.