By Geoffrey Ciani: Earlier this year, when visiting the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, I purchased The Ageless Warrior, by Mike Fitzgerald. It’s a book about the life and career of boxing legend, Archie Moore. On my commute to work this morning, I finally got around to begin reading it.
I was a bit surprised to discover the Foreword was written by none-other than former middleweight champion, Jake LaMotta. Being LaMotta and Moore were both contemporaries fighting in the same era, this seemed a fitting start to the book. Immediately, visions of DeNiro’s portrayal of LaMotta entered my thoughts, and I found myself reflecting on how different the sport was back in those days.
That’s actually what actually interested me most about LaMotta’s introduction—the way he compared the landscapes between his era and the modern one.
Said LaMotta: “When we were fighting, there was just one champion in each weight division, and there were only eight weight divisions. Today, there are twice as many weight classes and at least eight guys in each one claiming to be world champion. It’s a whole different game. If he were around today, Archie would be collecting titles easier than Paris Hilton collects boyfriends.”
Of course, LaMotta was right. If Archie Moore were around today with the extra weight classes and the excess number of titles, no doubt he’d have quite the collection of prize belts. It’s unfortunate there are so many belts these days; it makes casual fans less likely to tune in, and as a whole, it undermines the sport. Instantly, this reminded me of some recent examples of belt holders—paper titlists who were never “champions” in the former sense of the word. Pugilists like Roy Jones Junior.
Ironically, my train of thought was in tune with LaMotta’s writing, for he continued: “Today’s boxers qualify for a world title with fewer than 20 fights! It took Archie Moore 17 years and over 100 fights to get his chance. And like me, on his way there he had to fight all the guys nobody else wanted to fight. There are some so-called experts today who say that Roy Jones Jr. would have no trouble in the ring against Archie. They ought to go lie down for a long time, and then become experts in some other field.”
Once again, I feel LaMotta was probably correct. In a hypothetical match-up between Archie Moore and Roy Jones Junior, there is little doubt in my mind that The Old Mongoose would be victorious over the flashier, but lesser-skilled, Jones. Moore was a crafty fighter who found ways to win, and in all likelihood, he’d have made mincemeat of Jones Jr.
But regardless of who you think would win such a match-up, the contrasting landscape between Archie’s era and the current one speaks volumes about what’s wrong with the sport today. Archie fought back in an era where fighters earned their spot. More importantly, a fighter from Archie’s day had a lot more pride than his modern day counterpart.
Archie Moore’s illustrious career was defined by his desire to be great. Indeed, it was defined by his actions—he dared to be great in the ring. On the contrary, Roy Jones’s career has been largely defined by choosing the path of least resistance. Roy never dared to be great, and consequently, he cheated himself, the sport, and the fans.
For further illustration, consider the fact that when Archie Moore challenged Rocky Marciano for the heavyweight championship of the world, he earned his title shot by first beating a slew of contenders. Jones did no such thing when he got his shot at WBA titlist, John Ruiz; he didn’t beat a single contender. Furthermore, nobody even considered Ruiz the legitimate heavyweight champion to begin with—that honor was universally reserved for one, Lennox Lewis.
Incidentally, this reminds me, Jones actually has a fight coming up this weekend. Inexplicably, this fight is being offered via PPV—another example of how the sport has changed for the worse. Roy Jones Junior hasn’t won a meaningful fight in about four years. Why would anybody in his right mind pay to see this?
This article was also published at East Side Boxing