Makes Professional Debut
Moore continued to box as an amateur through much of 1936, when he fought in St. Louis and Cleveland with mixed results. In mid-1936 he turned professional and claimed his first win against Kneibert Davidson in two rounds. The following year a string of knockout victories earned Moore the reputation as a powerful and skillful fighter. At five-feet, eleven inches tall, Moore maintained his weight around 160 pounds as a middleweight fighter. Later, as a light-heavyweight, he would weigh in at just under 175 pounds. As impressive as his punching abilities were, it was his defensive moves that allowed him to outlast his opponents. Moore's quick reflexes eventually led him to claim the nickname "The Old Mongoose" after the fast-acting animal.
After leaving the CCC, Moore worked on a federal Works Progress Administration road crew around St. Louis in 1937. Inspired by the promise of bigger prize money, Moore moved to San Diego, California in early 1938. He continued to fight around the country, but San Diego became Moore's permanent address. On New Year's Day, 1940, he married Mattie Chapman, but the union did not survive the long separation entailed by Moore's eight-month absence to fight in Australia, where he was booked in a series of bouts with some of the country's best-known boxers. Moore enjoyed the publicity surrounding his trip, although the financial rewards seemed to be less than what his manager had promised. Based on the experience, Moore started to take a more active role in managing his own career.
Upon his return to the United States, Moore separated from his wife; the couple had been married less than one year. Moore also encountered a setback to his boxing career in February 1941 when he was disabled by a perforated ulcer that required extensive surgery. Moore was unconscious for five days after the operation and carried a long scar, shaped like a hockey stick, on his stomach as a reminder of the ordeal. His weight dropped from 163 to 108 pounds during his hospitalization.
With his recovery delayed by an appendicitis attack, it took the boxer almost a year to regain his health. Taking a job as a night watchman at a San Diego shipyard, Moore exercised regularly to retrain his muscles and increase his strength. Before reentering the ring against Bobby Britt in Phoenix in January 1942, Moore slipped a metal license plate into his high-waisted foul cup to protect his injured stomach from his opponent's punches. Moore won the fight by a knockout in the third round and continued with a string of knockout victories throughout the year. He ended 1942 with a loss against Eddie Booker in ten rounds. His bout against Jack Chase in May 1943, on the other hand, resulted in a fifteen-round win for Moore. Moore also walked away from the match with the California Middleweight title, which he held until August 1943, when Chase took the title back in a fifteen-round fight.
Over the next several years, Moore compiled an impressive record of wins, with many of his victories coming by knockout punches. Considered a leading contender for the light-heavyweight boxing title by 1946, Moore attempted in vain to set up a title match with any of the successive titleholders of the day, Freddie Mills, Gus Lesnevich, and Joey Maxim. "I took matters in my own hands, as much as I could," he wrote in The Archie Moore Story, "I began a letter-writing campaign to sports writers all over the country. I pleaded, I cursed, I demanded a shot at Maxim's crown." In December 1952, at the age of thirty-nine, Moore finally got his light-heavyweight title bout with Maxim.