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Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Best Advice I Ever Got - A Prizefighter's Wisdom.


The oldest champion in ring history, Archie Moore also was known to offer words of encouragement to troubled kids and prison inmates alike.  He loved the element of surprise, as this journalist found out.

By Harry Cummins

    The best advice I have ever received should have flattened me like a sucker punch, but instead, took some time to land full force on my head-strong life. 

     The words that momentarily stopped me in my tracks did not come from a parent, teacher, philosopher, or theologian, but instead, from the former light heavyweight champion of the world, the late Archibald Leigh Moore. Clearly here was a man with more than a round-house right mentality. 

     The advice from the pugilist who holds the record for inflicting the most knockouts of any fighter in the modern era of boxing came in the form of a scribbled letter postmarked from a Rodeway Inn in Houston,Texas .  Archie and I were in the habit of exchanging frequent letters ever since my profile story on him had appeared in Boxing Scene magazine describing the night he almost put down Rocky Marciano for the count.  I eagerly awaited his letters from far-flung places, finely tuned with the eyes of a sharpshooter, flicking through the events of his life like an old newsreel.

     At the time I was also a competitive runner in my 40's and captive to a single-minded training regime in preparation for the 5th Avenue Masters Mile in New York City.  I was battling a lingering Achilles injury at the time and Moore had invited me to spend a week at his San Diego home, where he promised to heal my leg with a special snake oil mixture and reveal training secrets know only to him.  

     Despite my willingness to go to great lengths to win a footrace, circumstance prevented me from accepting his invitation.  In return, I received the following surprise sentence midway thru the aforementioned correspondence from the Champ:


       "Your race must not be for a prize - it will be to help someone who really needs help."

     In the tumultuous and happenstance years that have followed, Archie Moore has been laid to his rest.  I now struggle, as do many others, to patch together this swiss-cheese year 2020.  So many questions, so many loses. Winning has lost its luster in its wake

     What I am keenly aware of right now is the sense that something new is happening in our world and  old eyes once fixed on a former prize can no longer be trusted to see this urgent newness.  

     A prizefighter's words have taken hold, as I join a long list of others, in and out of the ring, who have been hit with Archie Moore's conscience-altering 'best shots.'

     The race is still to be run. I see no shortage in search of those who need help.  

     In 1963, Moore , age 46 at the time, fought a young Cassius Clay, later to become Muhammad Ali. Moore was knocked out in four rounds as the brash Clay had predicted, but not before staggering and nearly finishing Clay in the opening round.

     "Archie never accomplished greatness at the right time," a mutual friend, Johnny Howard, once told me.

     I beg to differ.  I got a letter, and words to live by, to prove it!!