1940s1950sBoxingHBOHeavyweight BoxingHeavyweight Boxing ChampionsHeavyweight Boxing Title FightsRocky MarcianoSpecials

Boxing – Heavyweight Champions – Rocky Marciano – Boxing’s Best Special


If there were ever a certifiable “Great White Hope” in the heavyweight division of professional boxing….it was the original Rocky….not a some cinematic “Italian Stallion” of the big screen…..but a true undefeated heavyweight champion boxer that ruled the heavyweight division from September 1952 to when he retired from boxing in April of 1956.  Rocky Marciano (September 1, 1923 – August 31, 1969) was an American professional boxer who went undefeated in his career and defended his title six times, against Jersey Joe Walcott, Roland La Starza, Ezzard Charles (twice), Don Cockell, and Archie Moore.

Known for his relentless fighting style, stamina, and an iron chin….Marciano has been ranked by many boxing historians as one of the best heavyweight boxers of all time…..as his knockout percentage of 87.75 is one of the highest in heavyweight history. Although he had one professional fight (against Lee Epperson) on his record….Marciano began fighting permanently as a professional boxer on July 12, 1948…..when he notched a win over Harry Bilizarian…..the first of sixteen straight bouts by knockout….all before the fifth round….with nine before the first round was over.  Don Mogard (17–9–1) became the first boxer to last the distance (full 10 rounds scheduled) with “The Rock”….which Marciano won by unanimous decision.

Marciano won three more fights by knockout and then he met Ted Lowry (58–48–9)….Marciano kept his winning streak alive by beating Lowry by unanimous decision. Four more knockout wins followed, including a five-rounder on December 19, 1949, with Phil Muscato (56–20–0)…..an experienced heavyweight from Buffalo, New York, and the first “name fighter” Marciano would face. Three weeks after that fight, Marciano beat Carmine Vingo (16–1–0) by a fifth round knockout in New York that almost killed Vingo.  On March 24, 1950, Marciano fought Roland La Starza, winning by split decision….as La Starza may have come closer than any other boxer to defeating Marciano as a professional. The scoring for the bout was 5–4, 4–5, 5–5….with Marciano winning on a supplemental point system used by New York and Massachusetts at that time. The scoring system did not award an extra point for a knockdown and Marciano scored a knockdown in the fight. Referee Watson decided the bout, scoring it 9–6 for Marciano. Both boxers were undefeated at the time of the fight….with La Starza’s record at 37–0.  Marciano won three more knockouts in a row before a rematch with Lowry (61–56–10…..which Marciano again won by unanimous decision. After that, he won four more by knockout….then after a decision over Red Applegate (11–14–2) in late April 1951…..he was showcased on national television for the first time….when he knocked out Rex Layne (34–1–2) in six rounds on July 12, 1951. On October 27, 1951, the 28-year-old Marciano took on the 37-year-old Joe Louis. Coming into the bout, Marciano was a 13-to-10 underdog. Marciano upset Louis in what was the latter’s last career bout.  After four more wins, including victories over 35-year-old Lee Savold (96–37–3) and Harry Matthews (81–3–5), Marciano received an opportunity to win the title.

At age 29, Mariciano faced the world heavyweight champion, 38-year-old Jersey Joe Walcott, in Philadelphia on September 23, 1952. Walcott dropped Marciano in the first round and steadily built a points lead….but in the thirteenth….Walcott used his trademark feint to set up his right hand….but Marciano’s “Suzie Q” landed first. Marciano landed a glancing right hook as Walcott slumped to his knees with his arm draped over the ropes. He lay motionless long after he had been counted out and Marciano became the new world heavyweight champion.  At the time of the stoppage, Walcott was leading on all scorecards, 8–4, 7–5 and 7–4.

His first defense came a year later, a rematch against Walcott, 39, who this time was knocked out in the first round.  Next, it was Roland La Starza’s turn to challenge Marciano. After building a small lead on the judges’ scorecards all the way to the middle rounds….Marciano won the rematch by a technical knockout in the eleventh round. Then came two consecutive bouts against former world heavyweight champion and light heavyweight legend Ezzard Charles, 33, who became the only man to ever last fifteen rounds against Marciano…..as Rocky won the first fight on points and the second by an eighth-round knockout. Then, Marciano met British and European champion Don Cockell. Marciano knocked him out in the ninth round. Marciano’s last title bout was against 38-year-old Archie Moore, on September 21, 1955. The bout was originally scheduled for September 20….but because of hurricane warnings….it had to be delayed a day. Marciano was knocked down for a four count in the second round….but recovered and retained his title with a knockout in round nine.

Marciano announced his retirement on April 27, 1956, aged 32.finishing his career at 49-0…..and although Rocky Marciano was the only significant “Great White Hope” heavyweight boxing champion…,who was also undefeated in his career….it is this Sportsphile’s opinion that Rocky’s body of work against the heavyweight boxers of his generation in no way compares with the body of work by Muhammad Ali during the golden age of from 1964 to 1995….so.any comparison of the two heavyweight champions is moot…..as Ali fought three super great heavyweights (Joe Frazier, Larry Holmes & George Foreman)…..along with many great heavyweights (Sonny Liston, Ken Norton, Earnie Shavers, Floyd Patterson, Archie Moore, Jimmie Ellis, Jimmy Young and Trevor Berbick)….but as seen in this video…..Rocky Marciano was one of the greatest heavyweight boxers of all time…..and he certainly filled the calling as the only real “Great White Hope” of the 1950’s and beyond..

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