The town of Springfield, Ohio recently celebrated the life of one of its sports heroes. An 8-foot bronze statue of boxer Davey Moore now stands in the middle of his hometown. It’s been over 50 years since Moore’s death, and the man he fought in his final bought traveled thousands of miles to attend the unveiling ceremony.
“He’d be proud of this,” Moore’s widow Geraldine said. “It’s really been an experience. We’re just glad that it’s here and there he stands there.”
Geraldine and most of her family were among the more than 200 people on hand for the unveiling of her husband’s statue on a sunny day in Springfield, Ohio. Moore grew up in this town, but his place in history was sealed 50 years ago during a boxing match at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
“This is one they’re gonna remember for a long time whether it’s in Tokyo, Japan or Mexico City, Mexico or what have you, they’re gonna remember this one,” said announcer Steve Ellis in the 10th round of the match between Moore, the featherweight champion, and challenger Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos. He was right.
People would remember the fight – because it would cost Moore his life.
As a teenager, Moore earned a spot on the 1952 U.S. Olympic team. In 1959, he won the professional featherweight title and defended his belt 23 times over the next four years.
“He wasn’t flashy; he wasn’t loud and brash; he was the consummate professional,” said sports historian David Davis, who documented the 50th anniversary of the fight in a recent piece for Columbus Monthly. “He was considered among the top contenders for that mythical, ‘the best pound for pound boxer.’”
In 1963, Moore, 29, and Ramos, 21, fought as part of a card billed as the first nationally televised set of boxing matches.
Ramos eventually took control in the 10th round. When he knocked Moore down, the champ’s neck hit the bottom rope.
“He was amazingly able to finish the round but then his cornermen stopped the fight,” Davis said. “Davey actually gave an interview in the ring.”
“It just wasn’t my night,” Moore told Ellis.
In his dressing room, Moore soon began complaining that his head hurt. He was rushed to the hospital, fell into a coma, and died three days later. Moore’s death led to calls for boxing to be banned and songs of protest including one from Bob Dylan, which included the line, “Who killed Davey Moore, why and what’s the reason for?”
“No one killed Davey Moore,” Moore’s widow Geraldine said. “You know, nobody killed him. It was a very tragic accident and nobody was to blame.”
Although the fight left Geraldine a widow with five children, she never blamed her husband’s opponent.
“I have people ask me, ‘What do you think about that song?’ And I say I don’t really know but I feel today the way I felt that day,” she said. “It was not his fault. He could not help it. It was a tragic accident, and I’ll stick with that because that’s exactly what it was.”
During the Moore statue unveiling in Springfield last weekend, Moore’s son Ricky admitted that he often wondered why his family showed no animosity toward Ramos. He eventually found the reason.
“So one day I’m rustling through dad’s photo albums and came across a picture of Sugar Ramos outside my dad’s hospital room,” Ricky said. “He was sitting in a chair and had his hands in his face weeping heavily. I looked a few more seconds and I closed the book. Right then and there I knew he didn’t mean it.”
Ramos traveled all the way from Mexico City to attend the ceremony and spoke through his friend and interpreter Joe Flores.
“It’s hard because it was always in my mind,” he said. “I’m always thinking about what happened and what I did, and it hurts, but that’s the law of life, so you have to do it.”
The love the Moore family gave Ramos at the unveiling provided him with a way to heal emotional wounds that he’s held onto for the past 50 years.
“It was beautiful for me because I saw what I needed to see,” Ramos said. “I was at ease, and I wasn’t afraid. It was totally different. There was peace and tranquility.”
Today, Geraldine Moore has grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even one great-great grandchild. She hopes the statue keeps the story of Davey Moore in the conversation for future generations.
“At least people know this man did exist,” she said. “He was a great man. He never met a stranger. He was friendly, very kind and tried to help people when he could. Davey Moore was somebody. He was really somebody.”