I was surprised when I saw my fine editor’s tweet about the latest fighters chosen for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Among the names Woodsy listed was that of Davey Moore.
I remembered Davey Moore. I was watching the day he became a world champion after only 8 professional fights. He had a meteoric rise in the super welterweight class, but I also recall his career flaming out in short order too. I wondered if I had missed something on his resume that would explain the Hall of Fame’s choice.
So, I did a little quick research and found I was correct. Davey Moore’s boxing career went from white hot to stone cold in short order. Still, I thought writing about him would make for an interesting story. I messaged Woodsy and asked him if he’d like me to file a piece on Davey Moore.
About an hour later, Mike replied with a link and said, “This guy?” I clicked on the link thinking I was going to see the same fighter I had just looked up on ye olde Google. I was wrong. The Davey Moore that Mike sent me details on was the guy who was going to be inducted into the hall of fame, but he wasn’t my Davey Moore.
Wait…there are two Davey Moores?
My first thought was to write an article called “The Other Davey Moore,” paying tribute to the one who was not chosen. But then I looked through Mike’s link and did some additional research on the freshly-minted hall of famer Davey Moore and found his story incredibly compelling as well. So, I decided not to choose. I decided to write about both Davey Moores and the unlikely ties that bind them.
The older Davey Moore – the one I didn’t know – was born in 1933 in Lexington, Kentucky. Just one year later, Moore’s family moved to Springfield, Ohio and as a fighter he was known as “The Springfield Rifle.”
Over his 10 year career, Moore fought a ridiculous 68 times. The first half of his career was fairly unremarkable. After 28 fights, Moore stood at 22-5-1. Although it’s worth mentioning that Moore ended up on the wrong side of multiple dubious decisions. One would not be faulted for wondering if his black skin was taken into account by the scorers at ringside during Moore’s pre-Civil Rights era career. He then went on a 14-match winning streak that finally brought him a title bout against featherweight champion Hogan “Kid” Bassey. Moore won the fight with a 13th round TKO after badly bloodying both of Bassey’s eyes. Moore backed up that victory with another TKO of Bassey just 5 months later, this time in the 11th round.
Moore won his next three fights before being stopped in the 7th by Carlos Moreno after suffering a broken jaw. Moore recovered from the defeat, winning 19 consecutive fights before facing Sugar Ramos for the WBC and WBA featherweight title.
On that fateful night, March 21, 1963, in front of 22,000 Los Angelenos and a nationally televised audience, Moore suffered a terrible beating from Ramos in the 10th, and while he survived the round, the referee stopped the fight in the 11th. Moore was able to take part in a post-match interview, but he later collapsed in the locker room and fell into a coma.
Moore died 75 hours later. The high profile nature of the fight caught the eye of Pope John Paul XXIII, who called boxing “barbaric” and “contrary to natural principles.”
Bob Dylan (who would sing of injustice to a boxer once again in 1975’s “Hurricane” for Rubin Carter) weighed in later that year, laying the fault of his death at the feet of not only the referee, but also Moore’s manager, and the boxing fan base itself.
Dylan sang out on “Who Killed Davey Moore”:
“Not us,” says the angry crowd
Whose screams filled the arena loud
“It’s too bad he died that night
But we just like to see a fight
We didn’t mean for him t’ meet his death
We just meant to see some sweat
There ain’t nothing wrong in that
It wasn’t us that made him fall
No, you can’t blame us at all”
I’m ashamed to say, I knew nothing of this Davey Moore before the Hall of Fame called his name. This is a man who deserves not only his induction ceremony, but a film about his life too.
Now, the other Davey Moore – the one I mistook the elder for – didn’t accomplish quite as much as the Hall of Fame Davey Moore did. But he did have his day. This Davey Moore, born in the Bronx in 1959, turned pro in 1980 after the USA boycotted the Olympics that year, ending Moore’s dream of a date with gold. Moore roared out of the gate, winning his first 8 fights handily (the last 5 by TKO) before taking on the undefeated super welterweight champion Tadashi Mihara. Moore absolutely blitzed Mihara, winning by a 6th round KO. I remember that fight. I was watching that day.
Even at just 12-years-old, I knew I had witnessed something special. Moore was powerful, fast, and gifted. He appeared to be on his way to greatness.
Then Roberto Duran happened.
Moore followed his victory over Mihara with three dominant KO wins over the next year. Duran had lost 3 of his last 6 fights (including his infamous “No mas” retirement against Sugar Ray Leonard), and seemed like he would be a particularly fancy notch on the ascendant Moore’s belt. Moore would soon find out that Duran had other plans. Duran called upon his supposedly faded greatness and hammered Moore for 8 terribly lopsided rounds before referee Ernesto Magana finally stopped the fight. Legend has it that both Moore’s mother and girlfriend fainted in their seats watching their loved one’s brutal beating at the “Hands of Stone” that night.
Sadly, Moore was never the same. Duran had done to him what Chavez did to Meldrick Taylor 7 years later – left him a shell of his former self. Moore fought 10 more times over the final 6 years of his career, losing 4 times, and other than a notable TKO victory over Wilfred Benitez in 1984, his wins were against undistinguished competition.
Like the other Davey Moore, his boxing career ended at 29 years old.
Moore met Gary Coates April 30, 1988, and scored a TKO win, his second straight win after losses to Lupe Aquino and John David Jackson.
On the night of June 3, a bit over a month later, Moore tried to stop an unoccupied vehicle as it began to coast down his driveway. Moore slipped and was dragged underneath the vehicle, leaving him pinned underneath. A tow truck would later come and move the vehicle off of his lifeless body.
These two men, what to make of them? The parallels are fascinating. Not only did they share a name, a pigment, a profession, a few moments of greatness, a shortened career, and most significantly, a shortened life. One will be rightly enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame next year. The other will remain an interesting footnote in the annals of boxing.
Both are worthy of our memory.