I found this interesting post on the web. Although I do not agree with all of the writers facts or conclusion, some of his commetns are certainly food for thought.
Answering the CriticsAs I cruise the Net, and especially the boxing newsgroups and BBS’s, I see a lot of debate about Rocky; Marciano vs. Ali, Who was the Hardest Puncher, Who are the Ten Best Heavyweights, etc. This page is in answer to those critics of Rocky who seem to look for excuses to take away from his stature in boxing history.
“Rocky fought only old fighters”
All fighters fight older fighters. Unless boxing starts separating by age as well as weight, such will always be the case.
You fight the old ones on your way up, and if you stay too long, you fight the young ones on your way down. Rocky had three key fights against past-prime fighters which are always brought up by the critics; Joe Louis, Jersey Joe Walcott, and Archie Moore. Why did he fight them?
Well, he had to fight Louis, as both were seeking a title shot. Marciano did not want to fight Joe, whom he admired, and in his dressing room prior to the bout said, “This is the last guy on earth I want to fight.”
Walcott was the champion, so that was an unavoidable fight, too. Even the critics will agree you must fight the champion unless he steps down or retires, as Rocky did. Walcott wasn’t ready to retire.
Moore demanded and campaigned for the fight. Rocky had not sought a fight with Archie and was ready to retire. Forced into the fight by Moore, Marciano made sure nobody would doubt he won his final fight.
Ezzard Charles was only two years older than Rocky; hardly in another age bracket.
Roland LaStarza fought from 1947-58 and Don Cockell from 1946-55, so they were contemporaries of Marciano.
Ages of some of the famous opponents of other greats.
Taking the title from older men:
You would think Marciano was the only champion who received his title shot against an older opponent, to hear some critics howl. Let’s take a little look at boxing history and see if anyone else beat up an old man to become the champion. Hmmm....
Marciano was 9 years younger than Walcott
Dempsey was 13 years younger than Willard
James J. Jefferies was 12 years younger than Bob Fitzsimmons
Louis was 12 years younger than Braddock
Ali was 10 years younger than Liston
Holmes was 6 years younger than Norton
Spinks was 11 years younger than Ali
Tyson was 14 years younger than Trevor Berbick (WBC Champion)
Tyson was 12 years younger than James “Bonecrusher” Smith (WBA Champion)
Jim Corbett was 8 years younger than John L. Sullivan
So, the average age difference for these championship fights was 11 years. Rocky therefore had less of an age factor advantage than Dempsey, Jefferies, Louis, Ali, Spinks, Tyson, and Corbett.
Marciano was 10 years younger than Archie Moore
Ali was 19 years younger than Archie Moore!!!
Patterson was 21 years younger than Archie Moore!!!!
Joe Louis was 9 years younger than Max Schmeling. (Max KO’d Joe and was later KO’d by him)
Louis was 12 years younger than Jack Sharkey
Ali was 8 years younger than Henry Cooper
Ali was 7 years younger than Patterson
So, if Rocky rose to the top by beating up older men, it’s apparent that so did Ali, Louis, Tyson, Patterson, and Dempsey, to name only a few.
“Marciano fought against small heavyweights”
Though he only weighed in the mid 180s, Rocky fought many men who were bigger, and always with longer reach.
The heavyweights of that time weren’t the big, lumbering wind suckers of today, exhausted after a few rounds. There is little excuse for the big men of today, who would be in shape at 220, plodding into the ring scaling 260.
In fact, only the heavyweight division tolerates such poor athletic competitors. My opinion on it is this; make them reach a weight based on a percentage of body fat. If the man is a natural 240-pound fighter, fine. But if he is a natural 220 pounder, then make him hit the gym til he hits the weight.
Walcott ... 198 and 6 foot tall.
Cockell ... 205 and 5’11”.
Rex Layne ... 200 and over 6’.
Louis ... 218 and 6’1”.
Lee Savold ... 200 and 6’.
Jerry Jackson ... 254.
Pat Connolly ... 213 and 6’5”.
Gilley Ferron ... 205.
Johnny Shkor ... 225 and 6’5”.
Bill Hardeman ... 207
Artie Donato ... 202
Eldridge Eatman ... 207
Keene Simmons ... 201
Bill Wilson ... 229 and 6’2”.
Let’s take this a step in the other direction. If Rocky is to be accused of fighting few big heavyweights, he’s innocent of fighting men a lot smaller than him. That’s not the case with many of the other man often touted as being better than Marciano. Here are a few examples:
Johnson at 185 VS George Gardner 155 5’ 11 1/2”
Johnson at 210 VS Sam Langford 5’ 7 1/2” 147
Johnson at 220 VS Tommy Burns 5’ 7” 170
Johnson at 196 VS Fireman Jim Flynn 5’ 9 1/2” 175
Johnson at 205 VS Philadelphia Jack O’Brien 5’ 10 1/2” 161
Johnson at 220 Vs Stanley Ketchel 170
Louis 203 VS Bob Pastor 187
Louis 199 1/2 VS Billy Conn 174 (Official. Reportedly only 168)
Louis 200 VS John Henry Lewis 180 (In fairness to Joe, he was giving the half blind and poor health Lewis a much needed pay day out of friendship)
Ali 207 VS Henry Cooper 185
Ali 221 VS Bob Foster 180
This is not to say these weren’t good fights, but it does show that the bigger heavies weren’t out there fighting other 220+ men all the time either.
“Marciano never fought a hard puncher”
This often comes up, saying he would have been knocked out by a power puncher; a Foreman or a Dempsey. First, I will admit he never fought a Foreman or a Demsey. Neither of them fought the other, either, nor did they fight a Marciano, though Foreman did fight Frazier, who was very similar to the Rock.
Rocky had an 88% knockout percentage. Did he fight anyone who hit like him? No?
He did fight:
Rex Layne, a powerful puncher, who knocked out 25 of his first 36 opponents. 69%
Harry “Kid” Mathews, with 61 KOs in 87 wins. 70%.
Archie Moore, the man who holds the record for the most knockouts of any fighter who ever lived; 145 KOs in 199 wins. 73%.
Walcott, 30 KOs in 50 wins, for 60%.
Joe Louis, 49 KOs in 63 wins, 78%
Eddie Ross 23 KOs in 26 wins at time they fought. 88%
To compare with some other fighters:
Ken Norton 78%
Ingemar Johansson 65%
Max Baer 74%
Max Schmeling 68%
Jack Johnson 38%
The truth is, to compare the punchers (among those whose careers are over and ready for a final analysis) there are only a few heavyweight champions to compare to Marciano in punching power. Based on knockout percentage:
James Jefferies 83%
Therefore, in fairness, only those who fought one of these men knows what’s it’s like to face that kind of power.
“Marciano Was Easy to Hit”
In his time and ever since, it’s been claimed that Marciano was a wide-open target, easy to hit, and therefore wouldn’t have lasted long against the big sluggers. This is not true. There was a deceptiveness to his style, making him look easy to hit to observers, but not easy for opponents.
Charlie Goldman (1955): “He ain’t easy to hit as they say. Rocky rolls under punches and he weaves under punches... He protects his belly by blocking punches with his elbows.”
Roland LaStarza (fought Marciano twice) asked where Marciano had improved most between the first and second fights: “In defense. It was harder to get at him... Rocky fools you. He doesn’t take as much punishment as it seems. He looks easy to hit inside but he isn’t.”
Keene Simmons (1951 opponent, KO’d in 8th) “He fools you. When you look at him from outside the ring he seems easy to hit but if you’re in the ring with him you find this isn’t the case. His head is bobbing and he’s crouched low, so low in fact that you can’t get a clear shot at him.”
Joe Louis, in the dressing room after his fight with Rocky: “Marciano is a good puncher and he’s hard to hit. He has a funny style.”
Joe Louis, to Wendell Smith of the Pittsburgh Courier: “He’s a good fighter. Better than most people realize. He’s strong and young and hard to hit.”
Angelo Dundee (Ali’s trainer)”Rocky was a very deceiving guy. He was not that easy to hit.”
Jersey Joe Walcott and Archie Moore both said Marciano had proved to be much harder to hit than they had expected. And Ali, during the filming of the “computer fight” told Angelo Dundee that he was surprised at how hard it was to land his jab on Marciano.
“His opponents weren’t of the quality other champions fought.”
Let’s look at his opponents. Were they all bums, or just fighters unknown to today’s boxing fans, yet respected fighters in their time?
Harry “Kid” Mathews
At the time they met, Mathews had 78 wins 4 losses 1 draw with 57 KOs. Rocky was 41 wins with 38 KOs. Mathews had only been knocked out once, nine years before. Marciano dropped him with two left hooks in round 2! He was 29 years old and Marciano was 28.
Going into their first fight, LaStarza’s record was 37-0, with 19 KOs, and Marciano’s was 25-0, with 23 KOs. LaStarza was 22 and Rocky was 26.
When they met, Layne was 34-1-2 with 24 KOs. He was favored 9-5 to beat Marciano, who was 35-0-0 with 30 KOs. Until they met, it was believed among the boxing experts that Layne, who was much bigger than Marciano, would knock Rocky out. Layne was 23 years old, Rocky was 27.
In the October, 1950 issue of Ring, Nat Fleischer had this to say about Layne:
“Layne looms as the outstanding prospect west of the Mississippi. He is a hard hitter...Layne has what it takes to be developed into the next world heavyweight king. He can hit and has an abundance of courage.”
As it turned out, his powerful punches had no affect on Marciano, with Rocky knocking him out in the 6th.
Ok, Joe was past his prime. He was 37 to Rocky’s 27. But, he was Joe Louis. He was on a comeback and had racked up 8 victories in a row. His record stood at 56-2 with 50 KOs to Marciano’s 37-0 with 32 KOs.
Simply one of the greatest, most underrated fighters of all time.
When he met Marciano the first time, his record was 72-10 with 54 KOs to Rocky’s 45-0 with 38 knockouts. Ezzard was 32 years old and Rocky 30.
Boxing and Wrestling, November 1954, said of their first meeting, “It was also generally agreed that no fighter in the world other than Marciano could have lasted 15 rounds against the Ezzard Charles of the night of June 17, let alone with the decision.”
Ring magazine rated Charles the best light heavyweight of all time, putting him ahead of such greats as Archie Moore and Gene Tunney.
How good was Charles?...he defeated Joey Maxim five times, Archie Moore three times, Charley Burley twice, Walcott twice, and Joe Louis once. That’s 13 victories against future Hall of Fame fighters. For comparison, Ali had 11 and Joe Louis 7 victories over futher HOF fighters.
One of the greatest fighters of all time, in any weight class! Moore was 150-22 with 121 KOs to Rocky’s 48-0 with 42 KOs.
Was he a washed up has been when Rocky fought him?...After his loss to Marciano by KO, Archie fought 49 more times, with 24 KOs and only 4 more loses!!!
His record AFTER his fight with Marciano was something most fighters would be proud to own.
Quinn was 15-1 with 14 KOs when they fought. Rocky was 3-0 with 3 KOs and no trainer or handlers other than friends from Brockton such as Allie Columbo. This was actually viewed as an easy fight for Quinn. New England promoter Sam Silverman thought he was doing his friend Jimmy O’Keefe, Quinn’s manager, a favor. “This Marchegiano kid’s got nothing. He can punch all right, but I’ve never seen a fighter as clumsy. The kid doesn’t know what he’s doing out there. Quinn won’t have no trouble with him.”
Rocky knocked Quinn out in the third round with a short right that knocked him completely off his feet.
Ross was 26-0 with 23 KOs. Rocky was 4-0. Again, Rocky was looked at as an easy win for a more experienced fighter.
Sam Silverman recalled, “Ross was classy. I figured Rocky was bound to get beat, and Ross was the kid to do it. I threw Rocky in to give this kid another win.”
Rocky knocked Ross out in 1 minute and 3 seconds of the first round.
Vingo had a 27-3 record. Rocky was 24-0. Vingo was 6’4” and came in at 187 pounds. Rocky weighed only 180 3/4 pounds. Vingo had reach, weight, and a slight edge in experience. The fight was brutal, with both landing powerful punches, but in the 6th Rocky all but destroyed Vingo, knocking him out. Sadly, Vingo was badly hurt and had to be rushed to the hospital. He survived, but never fully recovered. from the beating.
Reynolds was 52-9. Rocky was 40-0. Marciano knocked him out in the third round.
Sam Silverman, boxing promoter who provided many of Rocky’s early opponents, admitted he brought in fighters with the anticipation that they would defeat Marciano.
“I thought Lowery was gonna lick Rocky. Rocky’s fights were all legitimate, good, hard fights. A lot of people were talking about how he was being fed setups. Marciano could have lost any number of times in his early fights.”
What did some REAL experts think about Marciano as a fighter?
“What’s so often forgotten is that Marciano was truly a great fighter. It was his will to win that made him unbeatable.” Archie Moore
“I had a bad weakness I kept hid throughout my career. I didn’t like to be crowded, and Marciano always crowded his opponents. That’s why I say I could never have beaten him.” Joe Louis, May, 1990 issue of Boxing Illustrated
“Naturally, the first thought that comes to mind would have to be Muhammad Ali. Ali is more my time. But before my time, it would have to be Joe Louis or Rocky Marciano.” Marvin Hagler when asked to name the greatest fighter of all time.
“Just look at Rocky Marciano’s record. Nobody beat him. You can’t take that from him.” George Foreman on why he placed Marciano behind Louis as second greatest heavyweight of all time.
“Joe Louis is the greatest heavyweight champion of all time. Rocky Marciano is second only to Louis.” Joe Frazier
“Well, let’s face it. He never got licked. Undefeated heavyweight champion of the world. I mean, how much better can you do than that?”
“Marciano is the most underrated heavyweight of all time. He had so much more than they ever gave him credit for. He was capable of getting those bigger, heavier guys and destroying them.” Angelo Dundee.
“This man was one of the greatest champions ever. He refused to accept defeat. And nobody beat him.” Sonny Liston.