The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / Archie Moore Down Under: Part Two

Archie Moore Down Under: Part Two

Archie takes on Fred Henneberry
Archie Moore sparring in Midwest Gym (Chicago): November 8, 1956.

Following Moore‘s Sydney debut, in which he stopped Australian champion Ron Richards after the tenth round due to a cut eye, Moore was matched with the Puerto Rican boxer Atilio Sabatino. Sabatino had split four fights with Richards since coming to Australia, winning one, losing two decisively and one on a controversial decision, however he had lost his two most recent bouts since the win over Ron. His first loss was in a return bout with the Richards, in which he was cut open early and stopped in three rounds due to the wound. This was followed by a controversial loss to Clarence Reeves, who fought under the name ‘Alabama Kid,’ another American who had come to Australia 1938 but had proved such a success that he was yet to return. Stadiums Ltd originally considered matching Moore with Alabama Kid but were so shocked by the referee’s decision to give the verdict to Kid that they thought Sabatino would be a better match for Moore.

The bout would take place on May 9th, again at Sydney Stadium in Rushcutter’s Bay, with Stadiums Ltd confident that a bout between the two imports would draw a large crowd based on both men’s performances against Richards. Moore had made himself into a local celebrity, something he very much relished in, and rather than return to the isolation of Megalong Valley where he did much of his training for the bout with Richards, Moore set up his training in Sydney, running along Sydney Harbour and sparring in the evening with Australian boxers Jack McNamee and Ern Clingan.

It was obvious from the opening bell that Moore was in another class from Sabatino, who was still ranked in the top ten middleweights in the world despite his two recent losses. Moore’s 4.5lb weight advantage, combined with his superior ring technique and punching power gave him a noticeable edge in the early moments and a short right hand put Sabatino on the deck briefly halfway through the opening round. Moore continued to punish Sabatino for the remainder of the round but was unable to put his opponent away. The Puerto Rican had some minor success in the second round with his right hand, but it would prove his best moment of the fight as Moore tattooed him with his left hand for the remainder of the round.

Sabatino attempted to work Moore’s body in the third to slow down the American but ate hard right-hand punches in return and was forced on the defensive half way through the round. Moore opened a cut over Sabatino’s left eye in the final moments of the third and was in clear control heading into round four. Moore toyed with Sabatino in the fourth, blocking all his leads and hammering the Puerto Rican at will. A left hook had Sabatino on unsteady legs, but he was game and stood up to the assault. The fourth was so one-sided that the Police Inspector ringside examined Sabatino after the round but allowed the fight to continue for one more round. The fifth was worse than the fourth. Moore punished a brave Sabatino with both hands and the Police Inspector stopped the bout at the conclusion of the round.

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Former Australian champion Fred Henneberry, as he did after Moore defeated Richards, again challenged Moore post fight and stated that he felt he had the style to defeat Moore. Henneberry, once the main drawcard in Sydney after his sensational knockout over Jack Carroll (Henneberry was the last man to defeat Carroll, who retired as the number one welterweight contender in the world), was hooted by his hometown, mostly due to his most recent performances at Sydney Stadium. In his last three appearances at Sydney’s main boxing attraction Henneberry had been disqualified, his most recent against Ron Richards (this was the third time he had been disqualified against Richards).

Moore took a short holiday, firstly in Megalong Valley but rather than return to Sydney, his manager Jack Richardson saw there was easy money to be made on his back of Moore’s recent performances and reputation as one of the best foreign fighters to come to Australia, so Richardson took Moore around the country, willing to take on any opponent for a £100 purse. The first stop was Adelaide in South Australia where Moore accepted a bout with Australian middleweight prospect Joe Delaney. Delaney, originally from Maitland, had fought most of his career in Newcastle, north of Sydney, and had engaged in over 60 professional contests despite being only 19 years-old.  Delaney had been unable secure a big fight at Sydney Stadium thus far in his short career and proved no match for Moore, who dispatched him quickly in the second round by a right hand to the solar plexus.

Moore and Richardson headed back to Melbourne and were told that there was money to be made in Hobart, Tasmania. They arrived in Hobart by plane on May the 22nd for a scheduled fight with the third man who was introduced as the opponent George Simpson, an American boxer who had been in Australia. Later on that week ‘Simpson’ was now introduced as New Zealand middleweight Tommy Jordan, and it was announced that he would fight Moore on the 27th. The two fighters gave an interview on local radio to advertise the bout where ‘Jordan’ stated that he had fought Maxie Rosenbloom, Len Harvey and Maurice Strickland. Richardson told reporters not to take a photo of Jordan and to only include Moore in the photo for the newspapers.

A huge crowd showed up, paying £1 for ringside tickets, to witness what was a one-sided affair. ‘Jordan’ was no match for Moore and was stopped in the fourth round. Moore and Richardson returned to Melbourne with plans to return to Sydney to face Ron Richards, who had just defeated Olympic champion Carmen Barth when the story broke that ‘Tommy Jordan’ was in fact a Melbourne preliminary fighter named Frank Lindsay. Lindsay had been hired as a sparring partner for Moore while he was in Melbourne and was then talked into fighting under the name Simpson in order to sell the bout to the Tasmanian fans, who they thought wouldn’t know the difference. When they found out that someone in Hobart might know what Simpson looked like, Lindsay’s identity was changed to Jordan. The fraud was discovered by local newspapers, who first contacted the New Zealand Boxing Council about Jordan’s credentials then realised Lindsay had not been seen in or around his local gym since Moore left Melbourne and then sent a photo of Lindsay to Tasmania to see if it was the man claiming to be Jordan was the man who they knew as Lindsay.

Stadiums Ltd Hobart boss George Gardiner responded to the story by suing Richardson and Moore for £1,000 but the allegations led to local authorities investigating the matter and Lindsay decided that he was happy to give evidence. Two months later six men, including Moore, Richardson (who had both returned to the United States by this time and wouldn’t appear at the trial) and Gardiner, were charged with conspiracy to defraud the public and the case was heard by the local magistrate. Lindsay pointed the blame at Richardson over the course of the week-long trial and the magistrate dismissed the charges against Gardiner and found that Richardson and Moore, the two men who weren’t present to defend the charges, were the brains behind the scheme.

The story wasn’t widely picked up beyond the states of Tasmania and Victoria and did not do any more than minor damage to Moore’s reputation. Moore returned to Sydney to face Richards, however Richards requested that the bout be postponed so he could be at his best for the rematch. Barth, who had just faced Richards, was originally suggested as an opponent but Stadiums Ltd went with Henneberry figuring the local crowd would rather see an Australian star in with the American and many picking Henneberry’s fierce in-fighting could upset Moore’ rhythm. The bout would take place on June 27 at Sydney Stadium.

Henneberry had been in training for weeks in the hopes that he would get the match with Moore and while Moore had more match-fitness, Henneberry was confident he had the style to beat the American. Henneberry, born in South Australia before relocating to Albury, had become one of Sydney’s top drawcards through his battles with Jack Carroll, Ambrose Palmer and Richards, in which his aggressive tactics and short temper made for memorable bouts. Henneberry lost more than he won against both Carroll and Palmer but had Richards’ number early in their series, winning three of their first six with a draw and the two losses, both coming via controversial disqualifications in fights that he was in control of. He was robbed the chance of knocking Richards out in their third fight when Richards pulled out with a broken hand, but he dominated their fourth and sixth fights in 1934 to score wide decision wins over his rival.

After losing to Palmer in 1936 Henneberry lost a seventh battle to Richards by knockout and his status as Australia’s top middleweight along with it. A win over now World Middleweight Champion Ken Overlin was the only highlight among a run of inconsistent performances at which point Henneberry travelled to the UK and USA for a number of fights, the highlight of which was a draw with George Abrams at Madison Square Garden before he returned to Australia to battle Richards for the Empire middleweight title. Richards had agreed to face the winner of the Moore-Henneberry bout two weeks after its conclusion which only fuelled Henneberry’s hunger to score the win over Moore.

Moore scaled slightly over the middleweight limit while Henneberry made weight comfortably on the afternoon of the bout. The 12,000 in attendance showed that the antics of Moore, Richardson and Stadiums Ltd in Hobart had not killed his drawing power, however with the fans in their seats and the final preliminary bout over, Stadium officials began to worry as Archie was yet to arrive at the stadium. He kept them waiting until 10 minutes before the bout was due to commence as his corner-man Ike Kutner wanted to keep him at his hotel for as long as possible so that he would be fresh. Moore showed up already dressed in his fight gear and with his hands taped and the bout commenced as planned.

Henneberry wasted no time and was determined to not let Moore get comfortable in the bout. He rushed in and forced the American to battle on the inside and Moore obliged him, and the pair fought at close quarters for much of the opening round. Moore did the better work with a pair of hard right hands over the top but Henneberry was busier and landed well to the body in the opening round. Henneberry kept the bout at close range in the second but Moore was again the sharper man, scoring with left hooks while Henneberry had success with his uppercut.

The bout continued in the trenches in the third round, but the Australian had more success making Moore miss and continued to work Moore’s body. Henneberry clearly outworked the American for most of the third round but a rally by Moore in the final stages of the stanza, in which he landed a hard-right hand to Henneberry’s jaw, made the round difficult to score. Henneberry used his jab to surprising effect in the fourth which confused Moore, who had been happy swapping punches with the Australia on the inside, and Henneberry’s surprising success on the outside frustrated Moore, who swung and missed wildly towards the end of the round. Moore came back successfully in the fifth with his own jab, which began to cause Henneberry’s eyes to swell and completely neutralised Henneberry’s attacks, and give him the clearest round of the contest.

The Australian went back to his earlier plan and took the fight to the inside in round six and started the round well, landing with both hands to the body. Moore once again took a minute to adjust to Henneberry’s change of tactics but was landing with hard counters by the end of the round. In the final seconds Henneberry struck Moore with a left hook below the belt and referee Joe Wallis, the same man who had disqualified him in his last three appearances at Sydney Stadium, warned him between rounds for the infringement.

Moore came out to start the seventh and sunk his own left hook below the belt Henneberry went down. Referee Wallis immediately ruled the round to Henneberry and gave Henneberry time to recover. The doctor was brought to the ring to examine Henneberry after an elapse of five minutes in order to fight a screen in which to conduct the examination behind. The doctor completed his examination approximately nine minutes after the blow had been landed and, after consulting with the referee, they allowed Henneberry a further five minutes to recover. Four minutes later Henneberry announced he could not continue but due to a “no-foul rule” in the contract, Moore was awarded the fight on a technical knockout.

The newspapers berated the no foul rule in the days after the bout and were of the opinion Moore should have been disqualified. Moore disputed this and the ruling that the blow was low and felt he had Henneberry ready to go.

“I am terribly sorry the fight ended in this manner,” Moore said from his hotel after the fight, “I feel disgusted, but not with myself. I don’t think I hit him low. Henneberry was puffing badly and I don’t think he would have gone another round. I was just beginning to warm up. I had scarcely perspired. At no time was I ever in danger, and it is just too bad that I was robbed of the chance of knocking him out.”

Henneberry stated that he felt Moore was on his way out when the blow landed and that he “would have beaten him easily” if not for the low blow. Reporters couldn’t understand how Henneberry could be hurt with a low punch while wearing a foul protector in which Fred responded by offering reporters to put that theory to the test with him delivering the blows. Despite the controversial end to the bout, the gate was estimated at about £2,500, earning a solid payday for both men. Moore was looking to cash in on his fame in Australia and bouts with the Olympic champion Barth and the rematch with Empire champion Richards were planned for the coming weeks.

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