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My Memories of Davey Moore

By Stephen Gordon

Where to begin? I’ve been avoiding writing about this for decades as it is such a painful memory…. My dear friend & the Dicta….er, Director of IBRO, Dan Cuoco, & I share a real passion for certain 50’s & 60’s fighters.

Chief among them has always been Eder Jofre & Davey Moore. Dan informed me that he was writing a piece on Davey & wanted me to augment it & talk to his family to get certain facts straight.

Dan provided me with contact info & after 47 years I finally spoke to Geraldine, Davey’s wife. She is a remarkable woman. She has a very positive & upbeat outlook on life. As Dan mentioned, she has absolutely no bitterness toward, boxing, Sugar Ramos or Willie Ketchum.

Geraldine Moore and family at Mike Major's Studio. Staff photo by Bill Lackey

Geraldine Moore and family at Mike Major's Studio in front of Davey's Sculptor. Staff photo by Bill Lackey

She is the matriarch of a rather large extended family & appears to joyfully revel in being a grandmother. She is also at 73 mentally as sharp as a tack.

My main reason for talking to her other than to touch base was to find out if Ketchum ever gave her Davey’s purse from the Ramos fight. He had also made statements about how Davey was well off with quite a bit of property & a $300.00 a month annuity.

Well none of this turns out to be true. There was no annuity or parcels of real estate. He did own a house but that was it.

I asked her about Davey’s purse & she said it had been so long it was hard to remember. She does remember that she only got a few thousand from Ketchum.

She said he took a 50% cut & deducted expenses which is really wrong as promoters pay those expenses which include travel, lodging, meals & training facilities. But then, Ketchum’s rep was never exactly stellar ….

I asked her how she survived as a single mother in the 60’s because it must have been very difficult. She said both Davey’s side of the family & her’s stepped up to the plate & gave her & the kids a lot of emotional & financial support.

Another benefactor was the Governor of Ohio, who was a big fan of Davey’s. He felt something should be done to help the family & offered her a job in the Governor’s office that she worked from 1963 to 1996 when she retired.

She is doing fine as she has a good pension from the state after all her years of service. I intend to keep in touch with her from now on.

Which brings me to my memories of Davey Moore:

My father was a professional heavyweight boxer under Willie Ketchum’s management before he was forced to retire due to the advent of World War II.

Davey Moore was in Mexico City in May 1958 to fight Roberto Garcia at the Plaza De Toros Bull Ring. Willie Ketchum called my father, who was then working for the U.S. government and based in Mexico City, and he invited us to come to visit him and Davey at their hotel.

The next day Davey, Willie Ketchum and Davey’s trainer Teddy Bentham came to our house for dinner.  Davey loved to play checkers and he and I played checkers for hours over the ensuing couple of weeks.

I found him to be a very quiet, humble, serious & sensitive guy. He was very religious and someone who obviously loved his family. He constantly talked about his wife and kids and how much he missed them when he was on the road.

The day of the fight it started to rain and the fight was postponed and pushed back a day. Davey, Willie, Teddy, my mother, father & I left the Plaza De Toros after the weigh-in and as we walked into the parking lot it was storming & a substantial crowd of enraged fight fans saw Davey and charged us all the while yelling & screaming at Davey as if he was responsible for the postponement!

One of them suddenly jumped in front of my father with a knife in his hand and my father knocked him to the ground hard with a chopping right causing the crowd to immediately part like the Red Sea & we were able to navigate to our vehicle.

The incident really upset Davey.  He said as he was crying, “Why do they hate me so much, what have I done to them.”  He had never experienced anything like that before. After Davey calmed down, he eventually got pissed at how we were treated and vowed to take it out on Garcia when he got him in the ring.

The fight took place the next day, and we sat in the front row. Davey dominated the fight from start to finish and dropped Garcia a couple of times. As the fight neared its end, a group of loud intoxicated Mexican fight fans located in the higher seats started wrapping up Sunday newspapers, dousing them with tequila, then lighting them on fire & throwing dozens of them down to the front of the crowd. It turned into a wild scene and got downright scary. Once the decision was announced in Davey’s favor they actually threw a few snakes into the ring!

I asked Geraldine if Davey had mention the surreal scene & she said oh yes, he had told her in detail what happened & how crazy it was.

After Davey was announced the winner by unanimous decision the crowd REALLY went nuts. We ended up having to be escorted to the dressing room under heavy police guard. 

I ended up translating for Davey to the horde of reporters covering the fight. A picture of Davey & 8 year old me was taken during the interview & appeared on the front sports page of the Mexico City newspapers the next day.

The next time I saw Davey was when he stopped Gil Cadilli in San Jose, CA, a month before his fight with Sugar Ramos. At that time my father was retired from the government and we were living in San Francisco.

After the fight my father and I met with Davey and Willie in Davey’s dressing room and Willie invited us to Davey’s next fight with Sugar Ramos.

For the Moore-Ramos fight we had front row seats and I remember the atmosphere in Dodger stadium was electric. Davey was winning the early rounds and then Ramos started coming on.  In the tenth round Ramos dropped Davey and his head hit the turnbuckle and ring post.  He somehow made it to his feet and was able to make it to the end of the round. The fight was stopped between rounds.

Davey did an interview with Don Dunphy in the ring before walking back to his dressing room. I was standing against the wall in the corner of the dressing room with my dad while Davey was talking to reporters.  I heard him say that he had an off-night and that he was looking forward to a rematch and regaining the title. Then all of a sudden he started holding his head and said: “Oh man, it hurts so bad” & then he collapsed.

Davey was a hero of mine and it really shook me up. I was only 12 years old & It’s still a very painful memory that remains with me to this day. Ever since then, whenever I watch a fight in which a fighter is knocked out and doesn’t get up immediately, or is taking a lot of punishment, I think of poor Davey Moore and question my love for the sport.

Writing this for the IBRO Journal has actually been cathartic for me. I realize now I spent the last 47 years trying to avoid this deep scar of a memory. Of course it was unavoidable & I have to thank Dan Cuoco for writing the article & forcing me to confront & deal with the memories.

Like I said it was cathartic. I feel like a massive dark cloud has finally been lifted from my psyche.

Stephen Gordon