“SELLOUT MOE” NOW OCTOGENARIAN
By Jose N. Fernandez
(This story was originally published in Boxing Digest in April of 1981)
In 1965, at an age when most people come to Miami Beach to retire, Moe Fleischer came from New York to work. Sixteen years later he shows no sign of slowing up as he logs his 51st successful year in the boxing business, a business where success is easier dreamed than achieved.
Starting from the bottom up in an era where such names as Jack Dempsey and Babe Ruth were household words, and boxing clubs and arenas flourished, he has been involved in every phase of the sport.
As a trainer he handled world featherweight and junior lightweight champion Kid Chocolate, who to this day he considers “one of the greatest natural boxers in the history of the sport.”
That brings us to a photograph which is one of a kind.
When one looks at the walls of the Fifth Street Gym, Moe’s current habitat, boxing history looks back. Photographs, articles and other memorabilia recount moments in the history of the sport. Among the photos is one of Fleischer with Chocolate, which is probably the best known in the gym.
Fleischer makes sure the photo is given notoriety, as he takes visitors over to it and describes his memorable days with Chocolate.
The picture is his pride and joy.
Moe Fleischer’s memory box opens to the great days of club fighting at the New York Armories when he developed Irish Jimmy Slavin as King of the National Guard lightweights. And then there was the time he was training Tom Heeney, “The Hard Rock From Down Under” as Damon Runyan dubbed him, for the Gene Tunney heavyweight title challenge. More kept his eyes glued on Heeney, virtually a one-man security force, except on one particular day. Moe was getting married and in order to maintain his baby-sitting over Tom he yanked the New Zealander to his wedding. On that day, Tom’s training routine missed a beat or two.
After World War II, Fleischer began promoting fights in the New York area and at one time he was running shows in three different clubs each week. Television was just getting started and the only way to follow the sport was by seeing it live, listening to it on the radio, or reading about it in the newspapers.
The sport was thriving and Fleischer thrived with it, earning the nickname “Sellout Moe” after booking 23 straight sellouts. In his Cradle of Champions, the Ridgewood Arena, Moe developed the likes of Rocky Graziano, Billy Graham, Sandy Saddler and Jose Torres, all who later figured in world title headlines.
In 1959 Fleischer had a hand in one of the biggest upsets in heavyweight history when Ingemar Johansson knocked out Floyd Patterson to capture the heavyweight crown in their first championship fight in New York.
“Nobody thought Johansson had a chance, but I knew different. A lot of people thought the match should not have been made, but the commission knew that when I made a match it was above board. What happened was that Patterson overtrained and left his fight in the gym,” he said.
After the death of his wife, Fleischer was encouraged to come to Miami Beach by long-time friends Chris and Angelo Dundee and after three trips to check things out decided to stay. “I’ll always be grateful to Chris and Angelo, for they gave me a new lease on life,” he said.
As an assistant matchmaker and talent scout for promoter Chris Dundee, Fleischer, who will turn 80 in February, has no plans for retirement. He wants to work until “he can’t walk no more.”
“Boxing keeps me alive,” he said.
Moe’s last champion was Bahamian Elisha Obed who won the junior middleweight title in 1975.
Moe Fleischer, a champion for so long in a sport where champions come and go with regularity.