Denny Moyer

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moyer-dennyThe first ever world light-middleweight champion, Denny Moyer, passed away in a nursing home in his home city of Portland, Oregon, last Wednesday (June 30). He was 70 and had suffered pugilistica dementia for many years.

Moyer, a ruggedly handsome Irish-American with real boxing ability, guts and toughness, racked up 97 career wins and won his world title in Portland in 1962 with a 15-round decision over Joey Giambra but lost it a year later to Ralph Dupas, narrowly on points, and was outscored again by Dupas when he tried to win it back. Finished? Moyer had barely even started as he compiled 140 fights in a career that began in his teenage years in 1957 and lasted until 1975.

Moyer was the ultimate cross-generation fighter who fought everyone, from Sugar Ray Robinson to Carlos Monzon, Benny “Kid” Paret to Vito Antuofermo, Luis Rodriguez to Tony Mundine, Don Jordan to Cyclone Hart, Tony DeMarco to Nino Benvenuti… He beat Robinson, Paret, DeMarco, Emile Griffith, Virgil Akins, Johnny Saxton and so many other names but, not a big banger, developed into a world class opponent in his later pro years, although he got a shot at Monzon for the world middleweight title in Italy in 1972 and was knocked out in five rounds by the monster Argentine.

Moyer, a hard-living, bar-brawling throwback to Jack Dempsey’s hobo days, drank heavily but never forgot how to box and was stopped only seven times. Boxing historian Dan Hanley witnessed his 138th fight when he schooled the previously unbeaten Rocky DiFazio over 10 rounds in Chicago. “Moyer was like a surgeon,” he said. “His combinations were awesome. He had everyone wondering what he must have been like in his prime.” Two fights later, in Austria, a points defeat to Franz Csandl convinced the 35-year-old Moyer to go home and hang up the gloves.

Former boxer Roger Esty remembers how Moyer was brought to San Diego to ‘steady’ a talented but immature light-middleweight, Ronnie Wilson, who merely steadied into the same alcoholic, free-living, fight-taking squanderer as Moyer, both men doing the only thing they knew to make a fast buck. “Irish Bob Murphy mostly acted alone,” said Esty of the notoriously quick-tempered Murphy. “Moyer and Wilson were double trouble.”

Remarkably, Moyer kept his head down after his retirement but news broke in 2004 of his severe health problems, three years after he failed to attend his induction into the World boxing Hall of Fame.

Submitted by Charlie Norkus Jr.

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