Today undefeated heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano would have celebrated his 87th birthday. Known as the Brockton Blockbuster, Marciano is the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated. He made six defenses of his title, winning five by KO from 1953-1955. His knockout victims include fellow all-time greats Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles, Jersey Joe Walcott and Archie Moore. What Marciano lacked in technique he made up for with inhuman stamina, damaging punching power, a good chin and non-stop pressure out of a crouch fighting stance.
Even years after his prime when he sparred with a young Muhammad Ali, the Greatest marveled at Rocky’s punching power and revealed the sessions left him with sore arms even days later. He would later state during his Nation of Islam days Marciano was the white fighter he developed the closest relationship with.
“When I was 14 years old and listening to the radio and I heard the announcer, ‘and still champion of the whole world, Rocky Marciano..’ I knew I wanted to be champion someday. He was a big influence in the start of my career,” Ali recalled.
It’s hard to imagine today a 5’10, 185 pound man with the reach of Manny Pacquiao (67 inches) dominating the heavyweight division. But what Marciano lacked in physical gifts he more than made up for with his will to win.
“I believe, in my prime, I could have fought with anybody alive,” Marciano said. “In the ring , I never really knew fear.”
Below are highlights from Marciano’s career, focusing on three key stages: his rise as a contender, his championship win, and reign as a dominant champ.
Could Marciano have taken the skilled giants of today like the Klitschkos? Chased down the 200 plus pound technicians like a prime Muhammad Ali or Larry Holmes? The debates will rage forever.
Marciano vs. Rex Layne (July 12, 1951)
Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott (September 23, 1952)
Marciano vs. Ezzard Charles II (September 17, 1954)