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ARCHIE MOORE 1913 - 1998

Associated Press

SAN DIEGO -- Hall of Famer Archie Moore, the aged wonder who knocked out more opponents than anyone else in the history of boxing, died Wednesday at a hospice home, a represented for the family said.

Moore, who would have turned 85 on Sunday, retired at 49 after a career that was considered one of the most amazing examples of longevity in sports. He held the light heavyweight boxing title for 11 of the 27 years he was in the ring.

"The doctor told me yesterday, 'He's a tough, old cookie,"' Moore's son, Billy, said a few hours before his father's death. "He's just at the end of his fight."

The younger Moore said his father was taken to San Diego Hospice about a week ago because of his poor health. He said Moore wasn't fully aware of his surroundings, but he recognized his children, who kept a bedside vigil.

"His nickname is Ageless Archie," his son said. "They named him that because he wouldn't tell people how old he was when he started boxing. Now, I guess it means something else -- that he will live on forever."

Moore, whose real name was Archibald Lee Wright, was born in Benoit, Miss., on Dec. 13, 1913. He won his first professional fight 23 years later, with a decision over Murray Allen in Quincy, Ill.

He won the light heavyweight title in 1952 at age 39 with a victory over Joey Maxim. He successfully defended his title nine more times, but along the way lost to heavyweight champions Rocky Marciano, Floyd Patterson and Muhammad Ali. He is the only boxer who has fought Marciano and Ali.

The Boxing Record Book list Moore's knockout total at 141 in 228 fights, but some sources list 145, while others as low as 129.

"He definitely had the most of anybody, and there's always that dispute of what the official number is," said Ed Brophy, spokesman for the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. "That and his date of birth are always two points of discrepancy."

Some sources site Moore's birth year as 1916, but his family reports 1913.

Moore had some of his greatest battles with Harold Johnson, who held a portion of the crown. They fought five times from 1949 to 1954 with Moore the victor all but once.

They met only once with the title at stake. Moore won that bout at New York on Aug. 11, 1954, retaining his crown with a 14th-round knockout. His other title defenses came against Bobo Olson, Yolande Pompey, Tony Anthony, Guilio Rinaldi and twice against Yvon Durelle.

Fighting in an era where fixed bouts were not uncommon, Moore said he never took a dive. In a 1989 interview with Sports Illustrated magazine, Moore recalled valuable advice he received from an aunt.

"Archie, take your rest, mind your trainer and bring no disgrace to your family, like throwing fights,"' he quoted her as saying.

For all his success, it wasn't until Moore fought Marciano on Sept. 21, 1955, that he had a chance to become with world's most prominent boxer. That he lost on a ninth-round knockout did nothing to diminish his image as one of the most courageous boxers ever.

Fighting an undefeated heavyweight king 10 years his junior, Moore -- also known as the Mongoose -- floored Marciano in the second round.

Marciano eventually wore Moore down, to the point where the referee wanted to stop the fight after eight rounds.

"Oh, no," an exhausted Moore protested. "I want to be counted out. I'm a champion, too."

But Moore's bloodiest fight was not his loss to Marciano, or his wars with Johnson and Maxim. It came in 1958, in the first of his title defenses against the Canadian Durelle.

Moore, who was to win on an 11th-round knockout, was floored four times.

"The first time he put me down ... I thought 'Wow, this guy can hit,' " Moore recalled. "They said Marciano was a house wrecker, and he was, but it took him a volley to get the job done. This guy ... one punch."

Moore was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1966, three years after his final bout, a three-round knockout of Mike DiBiase at Phoenix, and five years after he was stripped of his title by the National Boxing Association because of politics.

Moore, whose trademark was a ready smile and knee-length boxing trunks, traveled the world as an ambassador for the sport and spent much of his retirement lecturing young boys about the evil of drugs.

The champion had a soft spot for youth, having learned from a 22-month stretch in a reformatory. His expertise was sought by none other than President Eisenhower, who invited Moore to the White House to join a group fighting the ills of juvenile delinquency.

Eisenhower aides quoted the president as saying Moore should be a congressman. "Are you a Republican or a Democrat?" he said.

"Neither," Moore said with a laugh. "I'm a diplomat."

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