By Mark G. Butcher
In the seventh of an eight part series, Mark G. Butcher names the greatest fighter of all-time in each of boxing's original weight divisions. This instalment decides the premier light-heavyweight.
Being world light-heavyweight champion has rarely been enough for most fighters. A look back at the great 175-pounders in history reveals that the division could not hold them and the lure of the heavyweights nearly always proved too much.
From the swashbuckling Georges Carpentier through to the talented Billy Conn, the wily Archie Moore and the accomplished Bob Foster - success at light-heavyweight was never repeated at the higher weight despite some gallant efforts. Latterly, Michael Spinks and WBO champion Michael Moorer proved it could be done, albeit at a time when boxing's divisions had become diluted by multiple titles.
Arguably the two greatest light-heavyweights of all-time, Archie Moore and Bob Foster both challenged for the heavyweight crown, but ultimately they, too, came up short.
Foster was a master boxer and peerless at 175lbs over a six year period. Three of his four defeats before winning the crown came against established heavyweights (Doug Jones, Zora Folley and Ernie Terrell), but at light-heavyweight he was without master as he KOed Dick Tiger in four rounds to win the title and never looked back.
But Foster kept shooting admiring glances at the heavyweights and though a two round blow-out against heavyweight champion Joe Frazier should have discouraged him from other forays, it did not. Muhammad Ali later hammered him to defeat in eight rounds of a non-title affair as the disparity in weight was just a bridge too far.
Foster reigned as champion from May 1968 to August 1974 and in 15 world title fights at 175lbs had a glittering 14-0-1 (11) record with the draw coming in his final defence against Argentine Jorge Ahumada. He retired as undefeated champion, but an ill-advised comeback finally ended with two defeats in 1978.
But if Foster was a great light-heavy then Moore was on a different plane altogether. The aptly nicknamed Old Mongoose waited 18 years for his shot at the title and when he finally won it in December 1952, the wily old campaigner held onto it for almost 10 years.
Moore boxed for 28 years as a professional - the majority at top level - and was still fighting in world class when he was almost 50. This astonishing feat was aided by the canny Moore's cross arm defence and he could bang with the best of them, scoring 141 career knockouts - the greatest number recorded by a modern day fighter.
A highly intelligent individual, Moore distrusted managers with a passion, going through eight of them in his long, distinguished career. His refusal to play ball illustrates just why he had to wait until he was a 39-year-old, 175 fight veteran before he finally received his shot at the 175lbs crown against Joey Maxim in December 1952.
Inevitably, Moore was victorious (on points) and made four defences (including two more points wins over Maxim and stoppages over future 175lbs champ Harold Johnson and reigning middleweight king Carl Bobo Olson) before moving up to face Rocky Marciano for the world heavyweight title in September 1955.
Moore floored the unbeaten Marciano in round two, but a spirited Rocky rebounded to score a ninth round KO. Yet the Old Mongoose would not be discouraged and after a further defence challenged for the heavyweight crown again, only to lose in the fifth round against a younger, slicker Floyd Patterson in November 1956.
He returned to light-heavy and overcame a momentous brawl with Canadian fisherman Yvon Durelle in Montreal in December 1958, winning in the 11th after suffering a first round knockdown. Fittingly, Moore never lost the title he had fought so hard for in the ring and only politics relieved him of his crown. After nine defences in as many years, Moore was stripped of the title for inactivity, but his place in the history books was assured.
He retired in 1963 and became a successful trainer with George Foreman among others and died, aged 84, on December 9, 1998. In 229 contests, Moore had a 194-26-8-1 (141) ledger and it is unlikely any fighter at any weight will ever match his record for knockouts or longevity at world class.
Archie Moore, undoubtedly the greatest light-heavyweight of all-time.
GREATEST OF ALL-TIME (Results so far)
Flyweight: Jimmy Wilde (Wales)
Bantamweight: Manuel Ortiz (USA)
Featherweight: Salvador Sanchez (Mexico)
Lightweight: Roberto Duran (Panama)
Welterweight: Ray Robinson (USA)
Middleweight: Carlos Monzon (Argentina)
Light-heavyweight: Archie Moore (USA)