Blasted from the Past, Stopped by The Future (diary entry)

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23.11.2022

Archie Moore versus Yvon Durelle Undisputed World Light Heavyweight Championship 12.08.1959

As discussed last lesson, Archie Moore had been in negotiations with Sugar Ray Robinson. Robinson wanted to be the first man to hold the undisputed world middleweight and world light heavyweight titles. However, he ended up getting stripped of the NBA version of his title resulting in last lesson’s match between Gene Fullmer and Carmen Basilio and Moore decided to give Yvon Durelle a rematch. Robinson subsequently fell out with Moore who he said he had opted for an easier match despite getting less money.

Nevertheless, given the hard time Durelle had given Moore and how seemingly close he had come to victory a rematch would also prove to be a popular decision. After his last title defence against Yvon Durelle, Moore had faced Sterling Davis in Texas, USA for a non-title bout. Moore had stopped Davis in round 3. Similarly Yvon Durelle had also had one fight since losing to Moore, when he stopped Teddy Burns also in round 3 in Maine, USA. However, Durelle had been struck by a huge tragedy that quite literally hit his home village of Baie-Ste-Anne. 35 fishermen had been swept out to sea by 40-foot tidal waves that had struck the wharf. All of the dead had either been friends or relatives Durelle had known well in his close-knit community for most of his life.

Moore reported that he was experiencing trouble with one of his feet. He had injured his heel and asked for a postponement. The press assumed that he was having trouble making the weight and the heel excuse was a red herring. Moore acknowledges this in his autobiography, stating that this was not the case. He was 179 and making 175 was easy thanks to his diet. Another postponement was made when Moore’s wife was rushed to hospital for an emergency procedure. Here he commends Durelle for being “a perfect gentleman” in his understanding. However, once Moore’s wife was out of danger, his coach, Hiawatha Gray, called another “board” meeting to change the fight strategy.

Previously, the plan had been for Archie to rush Durelle in the first round forcing the younger fighter to make a mistake and to become clumsy. Moore had now accounted for and respected Durelle’s powerful right but didn’t fear his left. Although Moore’s right was at least as formidable, he planned on setting Durelle up with his left hook whilst fending off Durelle’s straight right.

The decision to reevaluate this strategy came about when Charley Goodman was recruited as Durelle’s new trainer. This had happened during the second postponement. Goodman was Rocky Marciano’s old mentor and the man responsible for moulding the Brockton Blockbuster, cultivating his natural attributes. All of Moore’s team held a lot of respect for Goodman and for good reason. However, Grey didn’t believe even Goodman could change Durelle from slugger to out-boxer. He believed that he would have The Fisherman adopt more of a crouching stance in his approach and would rush Archie at the beginning. Rather than relying too much on his shell, Moore was going to face Yvon head-on and not allow the puncher to get either side of him. They mapped out a plan of attack and forecast a third round knockout. The idea was to take a decent left from Durelle in round two and then shell up to feign being hurt. Although Moore didn’t want to insult Yvon’s intelligence, they believed a hungry Canada might convince him to revert back to slugger mode at this point believing that old Archie had had his time. As the champion would later point out, he didn’t fear the challenger’s left and believed he could ride its impact. Furthermore, going by the previous fight, he didn’t believe Durelle was a good finisher.

The fight was originally to be booked in California this time, which was where Moore’s team had wanted to fight. However, Goodman had been able to successfully persuade everyone to have it back at the Forum, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. There was no denying the box office success. It broke Montreal records producing $140,519 from a gate of 11,555. I don’t have the betting odds for this fight but Archie Moore believed that Montreal had bet heavily on their native son’s chances this time over the Old Mongoose.

Archie Moore came in at 174 lbs and Yvon Durelle weighed 173 lbs.

Former world heavyweight champion Jack Sharkey was the referee again with Rene Ouimet, Leon Germain and Johnny Gow wholly responsible for scoring the bout.

Round 1 – Round one would be, in Moore’s words, a “minuet”. Rather than go at Durelle, Moore would circle and out-box. This does appear to happen but both men certainly weren’t being boring. Moore bored into Durelle fairly early on but quickly moved to the outside. Durelle later caused Moore to shell up. Both men landed some reasonable shots but a lot of this might have been based on Archie encouraging Durelle to be aggressive for the next round and to put on a good show. The match ended with Archie using his jab and circular footwork more. There wasn’t a lot of evidence of Goodman’s crouched stance and Durelle appeared not to need a lot of encouragement to start banging away.

Round 2 –  This was where the main plan was to take place. Moore was to keep square on to Durelle to nullify the slugger’s hooks as he took one to encourage the Canadian to open up. Archie was certainly active in the round and picked off a number of good shots early in the round, landing regularly with his jab and heavily with a left hook that Moore later remarked Durelle took badly. According to Archie, he landed this not long after his corner called it and had noticed that the challenger was deviating from Goodman’s style.

However, Durelle came back strong as predicted, moving into the trenches. Finally, Moore began to shell up and Durelle began to pour on heavy combinations. Archie popped out with a blistering series of punches that stoked the fire more in Yvon. The champion confessed to being caught by a staggering right punch just above his heart not long before the bell went. Nevertheless, the round was Moore’s.

Round 3 – After coming out with a few jabs to aggravate Durelle, Moore shelled ready to counter punch. He caught the challenger with a well-timed straight right and put Yvon in trouble. Durelle fought back but he was visibly hurt now. Moore began setting up single shots and combinations. An overhand right put Durelle down for a 9-count. Archie moved in to finish the fight and Durelle met him in the pocket. However, he was running fumes as Moore continued to pick him apart with his heaviest punches. Archie landed an overhand right, a left hook and a left uppercut to send Yvon crashing backwards into the ropes. He was up again, trying to hang on as Moore delivered another one-sided rally of punishing blows. Durelle fell to the same ropes for a 7-count. Jack Sharkey was clearly giving Durelle the same consideration he had provided Moore in their previous encounter and allowed the fight to continue. Moore led with a shovel hook to the ribs that Durelle blocked followed by a sharp left hook to the head and then demolishing right that sent the challenger down for the last time. Durelle made it to one knee but stumbled back down and was counted out.

Moore, having defended his title nine times since winning it in 1952, didn’t fight again until May 1960. Durelle would fight four more in ’59. The last would be for the Canadian Heavyweight championship against George Chuvalo in his first defence of the title.

We watched brief highlights from:

George Chuvalo vs. Yvon Durelle Canadian Heavyweight Championship 17.11.1959

George “Boom Boom” Chuvalo was born on 12th September 1937 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He was born to Croatian immigrant parents. In May 1955 he won the Canadian amateur heavyweight championship in a first round knockout of Peter Piper in the finals. He finished his amateur career 16-0 all wins by knockout within the first four rounds.

Chuvalo debuted as a professional in a heavyweight novice tournament held by Jack Dempsey on 23rd April 1956. He knocked out all four of his opponents in one night, the first two in the second round and the last two in the first round to win the competition. His next fight saw him win for the first time by unanimous decision when he defeated John Arthur from South Africa in eight rounds. He then knocked out Joe Evans in the first round of their contest before taking his first official loss on a split decision to his home country’s Howard King.

He wouldn’t lose again until his fourteenth fight when the USA’s veteran heavyweight, Bob Baker beat him on a unanimous decision. Chuvalo got his revenge on King in his sixteenth fight by knocking him out in round 2. He then took his first draw against Argentina’s Alex Miteff. After this bout he won the vacant Canadian heavyweight championship by knocking out James J. Parker in round 1 of his eighteenth professional bout. He then lost a unanimous decision to Pat McMurty in his match at Madison Square Gardens. Returning to Canada, he knocked out Frankie Daniels in round 7 of their non-title bout.

George Chuvalo was a very powerful swarmer. His style was all about crowding and constant forward pressure, often having to be separated from opponents he seemed to be putting through the ropes. He is considered by many to have one of the most durable chins in the history of boxing, taking the biggest shots from the most powerful men in the heavyweight division. However, his heavy hitting style was likened to the early 20th century world heavyweight champion and slugger, James J. Jeffries.

Chuvalo came in with a record of 16–3–1 and weighed 210 lbs. He stood at 6′ and had a reach of 71 inches. Yvon Durelle weighed in at 186 lbs. His record was 82-21-2.

The highlights revealed the style that would be typical of Chuvalo’s victories. He stormed through Durelle early on and the fight is as much testament to Yvon’s durability at this stage in his career as it is the rising force that was Chuvalo. The highlights began with Chuvalo bouncing Durelle off the ropes with shovel hooks and regular hooks. He knocked him down in the first round and then in the ninth. Durelle was down twice in the 10th and finally down for the count in 12th where he showed no chance of rising in time.

Durelle told the press after the fight,”I’m all finished. I’m an old man. My legs are gone. Completely finished and I won’t be coming back nowhere.” He was scheduled to face Bobo Olson on 6th December that year at the Cow Palace San Francisco, but this was cancelled. However, despite his statement, he would return in 1960 to stop Emile Dupre in round 3 of their match in Maine. This would be one of three fights he would win that year. Ray Batey would lose to him on a DQ and John Armstrong would be KO’d in round 4. However, the year would finish on a points loss to Paul Wright.

He decided to retire from boxing again and took up professional wrestling in Canada in 1961 to 1962 before going back to boxing three more fights. He won two in 1962, one by KO and one TKO. However, he lost on points to the heavyweight who had challenged Chuvalo for the Canadian heavyweight title, Jean-Claude Roy. This really was his swan song in boxing and he returned to wrestling. He mainly worked in eastern Canada but also got work with Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling in Calgary, Alberta.

Known by his nickname “doux”, meaning “soft”, Durelle made few enemies and wasn’t known to be violent outside of the ring. However, in 1970 he was attacked by a man in a bar Durelle owned and operated. He shot and killed the attacker resulting in a court case. The event deeply impacted on Yvon and his family but Durelle was acquitted on the grounds of self-defence. Frank McKenna, a young lawyer, defended him and would eventually go into politics becoming premier of the province of New Brunswick.

Durelle retired to his old village with his wife of 50 years, where a small museum dedicated to his boxing career was attached to his home. The museum proved a popular tourist attraction. Yvon’s later life marred by the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Durelle died aged 77 on 6th January 2007, having suffered a stroke on 25th December 2006. His first fight with Archie Moore is considered amongst the greatest in boxing history. The famous referee, Mills Lane said of it: “I don’t think you’ll ever see a fight like Durelle-Moore again…That fight transcended what great fights are.” Archie Moore always contended that in his 220 fight career (229 by his count), Yvon Durelle was the toughest man he ever faced.

We finished the lesson with a look at George Chuvalo’s highlights.

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