Is Rocky Marciano Overrated?

By Jim Galiano.

Rocky Marciano reigned as Heavyweight Champion of the World from September 23, 1952 until his retirement on April 27th, 1956.  He died on the eve of his 46th birthday on August 31, 1969.  His place is boxing history is secure.  At 49-0, he is the only man ever to retire as the undefeated Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Since his death and the subsequent computerized boxing match ups between himself and Muhammad Ali, Marciano has been to the topic of endless debates – both pro and con over the last 40 years since his death.

Much has been said about Jersey Joe Walcott’s age, although at the time, he was favored to beat Marciano.  Jersey Joe Walcott was truly a great technician.  But in the end it was Marciano’s power, not Walcott’s age, that was responsible for the title changing hands.  Walcott didn’t run out of gas, lose his coordination or suddenly age right before anyone’s eyes.  He was hit with a punch still being discussed 57 years after it was thrown.  A short right hand ended the night and launched the Marciano legend.

Shortly before his death, Marciano said that his size actually benefited his style because most of his opponents “wound up punching down at me.”  Much of the power is lost in a punch that travels downward.  Conversely, Marciano said that he was usually punching upward which increased his own power.  The two fighters whose punches sent him to the canvas were Jersey Joe Walcott and Archie Moore.  Both fighters were named in the Ring Magazine’s top 100 punchers of All-Time.  My grandfather worked in Walcott’s training camps throughout his career.  He told me Walcott could punch holes through walls when he decided to set down on his punches.

Walcott and Moore were both the same size as Marciano.  And according to Marciano, their smaller, physical stature negated the advantage he had over most of his opponents.

They didn’t have to punch “down” him, which was something he’d become used to during his career.  He credited both men with giving him his toughest fights.  Rocky Marciano only stood 5’ 10”.

A short, power-punching fighter can always generate additional power punching upward.  Another example of this is.  The original Joe Walcott (the Welterweight Champion).  Walcott only stood 5’ 1” and frequently weighed under the 148 pound Welterweight limit, knocked out much bigger men throughout his career.  Nat Fleischer, founder of the Ring Magazine in 1921, called Walcott an “abnormally powerful puncher.”

Likewise, Marciano was an “abnormally powerful puncher” in a smaller “Heavyweight” package.

Outwardly, Marciano had a host of physical deficiencies.  His height, reach and according to you ask… even his weight!

Experts have rated Rocky Marciano just about everywhere on the spectrum from the best ever to barely cracking the top ten.  It’s amazing how so many experts can vary on such a well documented career.  With other fighters, it’s understandable.  Sketchy reports, the lack of existing film of the fighter in action (or no film at all).  All these things contribute to questioning a fighter’s overall place at the “All-Time Table.”

Jack Johnson is considered by many to be an all-time great Heavyweight champion.  Upon closer examination, however, there is less visible evidence to substantiate his higher rating than there is visible evidence to substantiate a lower Marciano rating.

There are some who point to Marciano’s size which is a valid consideration.  His reach of 67” makes it impossible to control a fight with his jab from the outside.  Of course, Marciano was a pressure fighter, anyway.  His success was based upon his ability to get inside and ravage his opponent with non-stop power punches.

Regardless of the opponent, the road to victory was the same.  Marciano presenting an awkward target.  Muhammad Ali was surprised how difficult Marciano was to hit with a jab during the filming of their 1970’s computerized fight which was aired on January 20, 1970.  And after taking a few solid punches during the initial filming – asked for more money.

Marciano’s punch output averaged around 85 punches a round.  He was known to throw over 100 punches a round as well.  His otherworldly conditioning and heart allowed him to keep a torrid pace throughout a 15 round fight.

“He could hurt you, sure, but it was the quantity of his punches. He just had more stamina than anyone else in those days. He was like a bull with gloves.”

– Archie Moore

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“I would throw a hard punch, then he would throw a hard punch. The difference was that Rocky would throw 10 more. He just never stopped throwing punches.”

-Roland LaStarza

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“The Rock was the most underrated Heavyweight of all time.  Because to me, the Rock was not given any credit for his effectiveness.  In other words, he was very effective in getting away from punches and all they ever said was he took punches.  His ability to absorb punishment, come back and hurt you.  He was the only Heavyweight that I know that could punch out of a slip, and hit you with ten punches on the way up out of the slip.  In other words, a very difficult maneuver.  A lot of credit’s got to go to Charlie Goldman.”

– Angelo Dundee

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“Rocky is the kind of a guy who never let up on his attack.  He has one of the most sustained attacks of all heavyweights of all times.”

– Hank Kaplan

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Rocky Marciano himself said shortly before his death, “I can only say is, I enjoyed it, I liked it. I never really knew fear.  I never was really hurt.  And I just think that… in my prime, I could have fought with anybody alive.”

“I became a dedicated fighter because I had single-mindedness, purpose of winning the title. I just overcame a lot of handicaps.  A lot of people thought I had too short a reach to be a Heavyweight Champion.  A lot of people thought I wasn’t big enough to be Heavyweight Champion.  I had the big legs and was not too fast in the ring.  The one thing I really had was strength.  Body punching became a very important phase of my fighting.  I hurt many opponents and was able to bring their guard down so I could eventually punch them to the chin and take them out.”

“I think that, because I trained as hard as I did, I became strong and rugged and was not afraid to take a punch.  I realized I had to get in close to do the most damage, so I was prepared for it.  I was geared for it.”

This isn’t to say that Marciano was invincible.  Any fighter can lose, and if they fight long enough, will.  And any fighter if they fight long enough, winds up getting stopped.

The fact that Rocky Marciano made it to 49-0 with his particular style of fighting is nothing short of amazing.

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4 Responses to “Is Rocky Marciano Overrated?”

  1. No other heavyweight champion who came after Rocky fought the kind of competition he did. You can spit out any heavyweight’s name in modern history from Ali to the Klitschkos. Did any of them fight anyone with the win totals of guys like Ezzard Charles and Archie Moore? No. Also, with the advent of the cruiserweight division it would be impossible for Ali to fight a lot of those champs at their natural weight if he were to fight them at his normal weight of 185-189. It wouldn’t be sanctioned. He’d have to be given the benefit of the doubt of his uncanny ability to adapt to any situation and train like Hell for every fight. He’d have to bulk up to fight those guys, and you better believe he would have and could have beat every one of them in his prime if he had the chance. Fantasy match-ups against Rocky are for the birds. The reality is much better. 49-0 has never been beat at heavyweight and probably never will be.

  2. Rocky was the greatest of all time
    there is no one to this day who could
    compete with him..

  3. Scott Burrell says:

    I am really undecided about whether or not Marciano was overrated.
    He had the best record in heavyweight history 49-0 with only 6 going the distance, he also always found a way to win, even when he was losing badly, I have a lot of respect for him and like they say, your the man untill your beaten.
    I just wonder though if Marciano could have gone undefeated in another era, because through no fault of his own he came along during one of the weakest periods for heavyweights. First there’s his size 5’10.5, 185lb, 68″ reach. He never fought a TOP opponent who was over 200lb except old Joe Louis, 37 of his opponents were under 200lb so how would he cope with the giants that came later on? Although he did fight great fighters they were past their best when Marciano fought them. Joe Louis was a shadow of his former self, Ezzard Charles was firmly in decline, Joe Walcott was 38/39 and was coming to the end of a hard 22 year career, and Archie Moore was a great light-heavy, but usually came up short against top heavyweights. Like I say, his record leaves me confused because he was undefeated but so might other fighters have been if they had come along at that time. great or overrated??

  4. FRANKIEG says:

    I WOULD LIKE TO PUT TO REST WHO WAS THE GREATEST FIGHTER OF ALL TIME AND THE BEST POUND FOR POUND BOXER WAS. WELL A MODERN DAY FIGHTER FOR THE POUND FOR POUND CATEGORY IT HAS TO BE WILLIE PEP….NO IFS ANDS OR BUTS ABOUT IT.

    NOW FOR THE BEST “FIGHTER OF ALL TIME”, I WANT TO YOU HEAR A STORY FIRST ABOUT A KID THAT WAS PICK ON SINCE 1ST GRADE BY TO BIG BULLIES, THESE GUYS WOULD SET UP FIGHTS WITH WITH THIS KID BY OTHER STREET BULLIES. THIS WENT ON ALL THE WAY THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL. THIS KID WAS ALWAYS BEING DUMPED UPON. THEN, IT SEEMED LIKE OVER NIGHT THIS GREW UP AND I MEAN UP…HE WAS A WELL BUILT 6’2″ 220LB GOOD LOOKING KID OR BETTER YET A GOOD LOOKING MAN.

    THIS GUY WAS NOW A BAR ROOM BRAWLER A HE WAS A BULLY BEAT DOWN GUY. HE WAS NOT VERY FAST, HIS ARM WERE SHORT FOR BIG GUY BUT HE HIT LIKE A MULE.
    HE SWAM, USED THE 150 HEAVY BAG, A RAN ALL THE TIME,
    HE SAID ONCE THAT THE GUYS HE HATED TO FIGHT WAS THE LITTLE STOCKY BULIES, WITH A CHIN AND NEVER TIRED AND HIT VERY HARD.

    WELL IT DIDN’T TAKE LONG FOR THIS BULLY BEAT DOWN GUY TO GAIN A HUGE REP IN THE LOCALS BARS IN BROOKLYN AND QUEENS. HE WAS NOTED FOR THE “MUSTARD FIGHT”, THIS IS WHERE HE WAS PINNED ON THE BAR FLOOR BY HIS FRIENDS, 6 OF THEM, AND ONE OF THE GUYS PICKED UP PLASTIC SPOON DIPPED IT MUSTARD AND FLIPPED IT INTO THIS GUYS EYE…WELL, THIS IS NO TALE, I WAS THERE…HE THREW THESE 6 GUYS, ALL HIS AND BIGGER, ALL OVER THE PLACE, THEY BROKE THE POOL TABLE, JUKEBOX AND THE CHAIRS THAT SURROUNED A TABLE WITH THE OLD RED CHECKED CLOTH TABLE TOP.

    HE BEAT THEM ALL AND HE COULDN’T SEE OUT OF ONE JUST LIKE CARMEN BASILLO IN HIS FIGHT WITH SUGAR RAY ROBINSON…WHICH I THOUGHT CARMEN WON…

    THIS GUY HAD A BHUGE REP AND GUYS CAME FROM ALL OVER TO STEAL HIS THUNDER….THEY SOON FOUND OUT HOW WRONG THEY WERE…HE TOLD ME STORY ABOUT GOING….I’LL STOP HERE, I’M GETTING OFF THE SUBJECT.

    WELL ANYWAY, THIS GUY TOLD ME WAS UPSET TO THE CORE WHEN HE HIT AGUY AND HE WENT DOWN AND JUMPED RIGHT UP, HE SAID POUNDED THE REAL BAD BUT HE STILL CAME AT HIM, THE GUY WAS BLOODY MESS BUT WAS STILL COMING, HE YELLED STOP THIS GUY BEFORE I KILL HIM…THE KID NEVER TIRED AND HIT HARD AND I WANTED THIS TO END WITHOUT HIM LOSING HIS REP….

    WELL HE NEVER DID AND HE ALWAYS REMAINED FRIENDS WITH THAT GUY NEVER TO FIGHT AGAIN….SOUNDS LIKE TALL TALE BUT IT ALL TRUE….I COULD WRITE A BOOK ABOUT THIS BULLY BEAT DOWN GUY…

    HE ALWAYS SAID MARCIANO WAS THE TOUGHEST, ROUGHEST FIGHTERS EVER…ROCKY HAD EVERYTHING YOU NEEDED TO BE A GREAT ONE, A CHIN, COULD HIT LIKE MULE, THOUGH 80-100 PUNCHES A ROUND AND COULD GO 30 ROUNDS IF NEED BE. HE TOLD ME WHEN ROCKY HIT CLAY IN THE STOMACH IN THE COMPUTER FIGHT FOR KNOCKING ROCKIES WIG OFF TWICE…HE WARNED CLAY BUT CLAY BEING A REAL BIG MOUTH PUNK DID IT AGAIN AND ROCKY UNLOADED A SHOT THE GUT AND DR. FERDIE PACHECO JUMPED INTO THE RING THINKING CLAY WAS DYING.

    CLAY SAID HE WAS SORRY TO ROCK….CLAY ADMITTED THAT ROCK WAS THE ONLY WHITE FIGHTER HE LIKE AND WAS A PALLBEARER AT ROCK’S FUNERAL….CLAY FELT THAT POWER…

    CLAY DID THE ROPE-A-DOPE WITH FOREMAM WITH CLAY WHIPPING GEORGE BUT WHEN ROLAND LASTARZA DID THE ROPE-A-DOPE WITH ROCK, ROCK BROKE HIS ARMS, SO MUCH FOR FOREMAN POWER. HOW MANY TIMES DID FOREMAN SHEAR THE TEETH OF AN OPPONENT TO THE NUB? ROCK DID IT 3 TIMES.

    CASE CLOSED ON THE GREATEST…ROCK’S THE MAN

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