2. Rocky Marciano Vs Jersey Joe Walcott
September 23, 1952
Venue: Municipal Auditorium
In my opinion, Rocky Marciano is, along with Arturo Gatti, one of the two most overrated boxers in boxing history. At 5’9 and 185 pounds, Marciano was an undersized heavyweight who built his entire career before fighting for the heavyweight championship by fighting stiffs and old men. His biggest win was a ninth round knockout of a way past his prime Joe Louis. Marciano was a plodding one-dimensional brawler who used his granite chin as his only line of defense. Going into his September 1952 fight with heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott, Marciano was favored over the 38-year-old champion. Walcott’s ascent to the heavyweight title was one of the toughest journeys to the title in the history of the prestigious weight class.
At the age of 31, Walcott was considered a past-his-prime journeyman with a pedestrian 29-9-2 record. Then, all of a sudden, the crafty veteran from Camden, New Jersey went on a 12-fight winning streak that earned him a top 10 heavyweight ranking. After splitting two fights with Elmer Ray and winning two-out-of-three fights against future light heavyweight world champion Joey Maxim, Walcott earned a shot against the legendary heavyweight champion Louis on December 5, 1947 at Madison Square Garden. Walcott put on the greatest performance of his career, thoroughly out-boxing Louis and knocking him down twice before being robbed of winning the title as Louis escaped with a horrific split decision victory. Walcott was granted an immediate rematch on June 25, 1948 and had success early on, including knocking down Joe in the third round, but Louis was able to wear down and knock out Walcott in the 11th.
Louis retired after his victory in the rematch. Walcott fought Ezzard Charles for the vacated crown on June 22, 1949. Charles won via comfortable decision and at 35, Walcott seemed to be finished as a fighter. Yet, Walcott was able to secure two more opportunities at Charles’s title. After losing another clear cut decision to Charles on March 7, 1951, the now 37-year-old Walcott received another shot three months later. The third time was the charm as Walcott landed a left uppercut in the seventh round that damn near comatosed Charles. Walcott, at the time, became the oldest man to win the heavyweight title. This record would stand for over 43 years before George Foreman became heavyweight champion at 45. Walcott would defeat Charles via decision a year later in his first defense of his heavyweight crown. Then came the night of September 23, 1952.
Walcott dropped Marciano in the opening stanza and was completely having his way for the first 12 rounds. Walcott was an excellent counterpuncher who was able to exploit Marciano’s aggression and lack of defense to land at will. Marciano was bloodied and his left eye was severely swollen. Marciano was being exposed as an overhyped contender until the shocking 13th round. Early in the fatal 13th, both fighters were attempting right crosses at the same time. Unfortunately for Walcott, Marciano’s landed first to his jaw. Walcott immediately fell into a fetal position as referee Charley Daggert counted to 10. One right hand totally negated 12 rounds of Walcott’s mastery over the Brockton, Massachusetts brawler. It also began Marciano’s three-year reign as the most overrated and overhyped title reign in the history of the heavyweight division.
Marciano would knock out a 39-year-old Walcott the following year. It would be the final fight of Walcott’s career. Marciano would defend his title successfully five more times before retiring in 1955 with an unblemished record of 49-0 with 43 knockouts, which is, in my opinion, the most overrated and padded record in boxing history. Yet, I give him credit for landing probably the single greatest right cross in boxing history on the night he scored his miracle knockout of Walcott.