Prizefighting: The Aftermath

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Davey Moore was dead, and a Los Angeles autopsy surgeon said that it was a "one-in-a-million accident—something that could happen on your front porch if you fell down." Cuba's Sugar Ramos had not punched the featherweight champion to death. The fatal blow was a whiplash injury that occurred in the tenth round, when Moore fell backward and hit the base of his skull on a rubber-covered steel ring rope. The collision caused brain contusions, or bruises, and the resultant swelling brought death.

One in a million or not, it was the third major ring tragedy in a year*—and boxing's foes suddenly were loud and legion. In Rome, Pope John XXIII denounced Moore's profession as "barbaric," and said that "fist fights are contrary to natural principles." California's Governor Pat Brown nominated himself as a one-man anti-boxing crusade. Bills to ban boxing were introduced in California, Oregon, Texas, Maryland and Ohio. Wrote three Ohio lawmakers: "The legislature has seen fit to outlaw dogfights, bearfights and cockfights. The least they could do is the same for humans."

Boxing men seemed tongue-tied. Ned Irish, president of Manhattan's Madison Square Garden, lamely muttered that the sport's enemies were out for "free publicity." It was up to Anthropologist Margaret Mead to issue the stoutest defense. Today's pillowed and pushbutton society is "robbing males of a robust mastery over their own bodies." Boxing, she said, helps retard "the emasculation of the modern male." Davey Moore might have agreed. Said he the day before the bout: "I'm a fighter because I like it. I'm doing something I know how to do."

* Welterweight Champion Benny Paret died of brain injuries in April 1962, ten days after losing his title to Emile Griffith; Argentine Heavyweight Alejandro Lavorante suffered brain damage in a bout with Johnny Riggins last September, was still in a coma last week.