Today on “Learn from the Fight” we continued to look at the career of my personal favourite, Archie Moore, but also the rise of Floyd Patterson. Almost by default the star of the show became Joey Maxim, a skilled boxer who has regularly appeared in these lessons. These were two of his last truly good fights before he began losing more than he won. The fights are memorable for different reasons as we will see.
Archie Moore versus Joey Maxim Light Heavyweight Championship 27.01.1954
1953 had been an especially successful year for Archie Moore. He had won all nine of his fights, including a 10-round decision over Nino Valdez of Cuba who was considered a fringe contender in for world heavyweight title and his successful light-heavyweight defence against Joey Maxim, which we covered in a previous lesson. He’d also won two fights in Argentina. He began 1954 with yet another match against the former holder of the light-heavyweight title Joey Maxim, putting said title on the line. Maxim, yet again, had not fought anyone since last facing Moore.
The master of ceremonies at the Orange Bowl, Miami, Florida, even introduced this fight as “the latest edition of Archie Moore versus Joey Maxim”.
Moore had struggled to make the 175lbs weight limit, having been contending in the heavyweight division. Further pressures on Moore came via his wife, Elizabeth nee Thornton, filing a lawsuit against him on the day of the fight. He would remarry in two years’ time. From his first marriage he had two children, Archie Moore Jnr and Elizabeth. His second marriage, which would last for the remainder of his life, was to Joan Hardy and would produce his five other children, including the boxer, J’Marie. On this day, news of Moore struggling to make weight and the lawsuit saw the odds drift in favour of the twice defeated Maxim at 6/5.
The first seven rounds saw the usual Moore coming forward behind the cross-guard landing heavy shots. Meanwhile, Maxim did his best to hold him off with clinches. We watched two of the match’s best rounds, for Moore at least.
In round eight Maxim, famed for his iron-cast chin, went into the trenches with Moore and was sent to the canvas with a powerful combination. Maxim had only been knocked out once in his entire career and it was incredibly rare to see him go down. However, Moore’s right hand did the job this time and the challenger was almost out for the count. Moore failed to capitalise on the knockdown and Maxim, to his credit, seemed just as stoic in his muffling defence as before.
In round 11 Moore hit Maxim with a short left-right-left combination that sent him down for a second time. The challenger was up again and ate some more unanswered hooks to the jaw but stayed vertical. He began doing some more active work with his jab and Moore slipped and shoulder rolled his way forward. Highlights from round 15 saw Moore bore forward with aggression and Maxim whether the storm. It was yet another successful title fight for “The Old Mongoose”.
Joey Maxim versus Floyd Patterson 07.06.1954
Floyd Patterson was born into an impoverished family on 4th January 1935 in Waco, North Carolina. He was one of eleven children and his childhood was described as insular as well as troubled. By the age of 10, his family had moved to Brooklyn, New York and Patterson was already in a reform school, Wiltwyck School for Boys in West Park for petty thieving. However, after two years it was said he turned his young life around and went on to excel in sports at a high school in New Paltz, New York. At age 14 he discovered boxing and began training at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Boxing Association Gym. A prodigy, he won the Olympic Gold at middleweight in Helsinki 1952. This was also the same year that he won both the National Amateur Middleweight Championship and the Golden Gloves Middleweight Championship. He was spotted by the soon-to-be legendary boxing coach Cus D’Amato who took him under his wing at the Gramercy Gym. Patterson completed his amateur career with 40 wins (37 by knockout) and 4 defeats. Under D’Amato he would learn the peek-a-boo swarmer style of boxing.
Patterson turned professional in 1952 and won his first 13 fights, eight by stoppage and only one split decision. Although now competing in the light-heavyweight ranks D’Amato had Patterson earmarked for the heavyweight division. However, he would first have to get through the wily Maxim. Floyd Patterson was 6 foot with a reach of 70.87 inches.
The scheduled 8-round fight took place at the Eastern Parkway, New York, was televised and had co-commentary by the great former World Light Heavyweight Champion Tommy Loughran.
From round one it was interesting to see how the aged Maxim would deal with the new swarming style. The obvious contrasts between the two were that Maxim adopted a more classic bladed stance and used the back-step jab to strong effect. In later years – and certainly given his performances with Archie Moore and Sugar Ray Robinson – he had begun tying up opponents a lot and piling on the damage at this range. Patterson’s style was the brainchild of Cus D’Amato and completely flew in the face of contemporary boxing wisdom by having the boxer embrace a square-on stance. It built on Jack Dempsey’s pressure-fighting approach but adopted a tight guard and put even greater emphasis on the slipping and rolling. Unlike Dempsey, peek-a-boo boxers used this method as much as a counter-fighting strategy as an offensive one. The bobbing head of the square-on forward pressing fighter invites the opponent to jab, providing an opening for the synchronised jab. Comparing him to D’Amato’s much later protégé, Mike Tyson, Patterson may have not been as powerful (although he had a KO percentage 62.5 throughout his career) he had faster hands. He would regularly punch low and high with the same hand but his speed afforded him the ability to also throw multiple strikes at the same target during these transitions. It has been argued that although Muhammad Ali was the fastest overall in the heavyweight division, Patterson had the fastest hands.
Straight off we saw him being able to use his jab more effectively against Patterson’s forward pressure. Maxim had a two and half inch reach and one inch height advantage. He sought to tie up the swarmer but seemed mindful not to stay in the clinch too long given how well this suited Patterson. Patterson worked well to push off opponent’s shoulders to deliver rapid punching combinations on the inside.
Early on in this fight we didn’t quite see Patterson’s gazelle punch but he did dive in with a sharp overhand. At the clinch range it immediately proved difficult of Maxim to bully Patterson due to the latter’s tremendous hand speed at this range. Nevertheless, he still used under-hooks to stall him. The first round looked fairly even.
In round two Maxim began doubling up on his jab, a good tactic to use against peek-a-boo boxers, but Patterson charged through with a scoring overhand. The fight went into the corner but Maxim smoothly negotiated his way out. Maxim began using his jabs to set up rear hand uppercuts and right hooks at long range. He ate a left/right hook combination after rebounding off the ropes. Patterson’s lead straight left hook began to make a more regular appearance. Maxim dug in some shovel hooks to small effect.
In round four Maxim began using more of a flicker jab to keep Patterson at bay who continued to move forward, quickly bringing the fight to mid-range. At clinch range Patterson pressed with his faster hands whilst Maxim dug in with heavier punches. Maxim pushed to initiate distance and began putting together one-twos. With Patterson beginning to eat up the distance, Maxim looked like he was beginning to accept tying up wasn’t the best tactic to use against Patterson who began piling on the damage with his side-to-side actions, synchronised fast punching and pushing off the shoulder. However, trying to score from long range didn’t seem to be going particularly well due to Patterson’s constant head movement. He had to block him more and dig in at close range.
Round six saw both fighters spend more time in the middle of the ring. Maxim appeared to be pressing the fight now whilst maintaining distance. However, this did not last for long. Patterson replied with a blistering series of hooks as he closed the distance and forced Maxim into the ropes. We began see the gazelle punch now, but it missed as Maxim retreated to long range. Once here, Maxim did well to keep active but Patterson just seemed to excel once he moved in. If ever there was an argument that Patterson was the winner of this fight its basis was in this round.
Likewise, round seven saw more, much more of the same. Maxim it might be fair to say landed a fair few solid blows to the body. He put together a few one-twos and was doing a moderate amount of work with his right hook, but Patterson seemed livelier and landed the punches. There were some good exchanges at mid-range and Maxim still ran things at long range.
The final round began a little more measured with Maxim taking the lead and doing most of the work at his familiar range. He continued to throw his trademark jabs and also some straight arm hooks of his own. Patterson circled, looking for a way in. His early attempts were spoiled and Maxim landed some shots. He eventually began to regain momentum and started throwing bigger punches at close range. There were some even exchanges at mid-range with both men tagging one another. At close range we saw more side-to-side work from Patterson.
After the bell rang, Loughran whose own style wasn’t a million miles away from Maxim’s seemed confident old ex-world champion and won the bout. He described his mauling style to have dominated and saw Patterson’s style to be very unorthodox, especially the gazelle punch. He was right with his prediction, Maxim won a unanimous decision. However, a large portion of the audience met the verdicts with loud boos. Patterson, for his part, took his first loss graciously.
This fight was probably the closest Joey Maxim ever got to his former glory. His last fight with Archie Moore had clearly indicated that, like Jake LaMotta, his amazing chin was showing cracks. After beating Floyd Patterson he lost more fights than he won, including one against the Bobo Olson in 1955 when, as we will see, the world middleweight champion was trying his luck in the light heavyweight division.
After retiring from boxing 1958, Maxim followed a familiar path taken by ex-great boxers, working in showbusiness, in restaurants and as a greeter for hotels. He even worked as a taxi driver at one time. His attempts at showbusiness weren’t successful. His ignoble debut was in Herschell Gordon Lewis’s 1963 film, “Goldilocks and the Three Bares”. Lewis is often credited with being the godfather of gore and the originator of the splatter genre of horror movies. However, this particular movie was credited with being the first nudist musical. Maxim played himself and served as part of the film’s publicity. His acting career didn’t go very far after that point. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994 and died on 2nd June in 2001 after suffering from a stroke.
Although I have never been a particular fan of Joey Maxim, there is little disputing his presence as a highly effective and skilled boxer who fought the best in the light heavyweight and heavyweight divisions. A lot has already been said about his remarkably resilient chin – he was only knocked out once in his entire career by Curtis Shepherd – but he was also a very elusive fighter at the height of his powers and remained a frustratingly awkward opponent. His 116 fight career with 83 wins, 29 losses and four draws. Never known as a knockout merchant only 22 of these wins came via KO, but he beat some true greats including Jimmy Bivens, Freddie Mills, Jersey Joe Walcott, Sugar Ray Robinson and Floyd Patterson.