Alan Dawson – London
Rocky Marciano, one of an exclusive set of prizefighting world champions to retire undefeated, scalped a number of high calibre opponents during his seven year professional career. His knockout ratio was 88 percent but how did the all-time great negate his obvious height and reach disadvantages? On The Beak detail how one defeat as an amateur ensured Marciano would amass a 49-0-0, 43ko mark as a pro.
(Video embedded above credit – Youtube, CompleteBoxing)
Famed for his one-punch knockout power, his relentless come-forward pressure-fighting style and his sturdy chin, Marciano also had under-rated defensive nous. He could throw up to 120 punches in a single round – unheard of numbers for the heavyweight division – is retrospectively regarded as the most well conditioned athlete in boxing’s no limit weight class ever and had an unorthodox posturing that often made him him a difficult opponent to land clean shots on; even when up against the division’s elite technicians.
Even for the late 1940s and early 50s, Marciano was seen as a small heavyweight due to his 5’11 height. He was naturally stocky, though, and so a drop in division was unlikely. When he fought in the amateur ranks, it was quickly discovered that his lack of height when tackling taller guys was a weakness. His debut amateur bout, against Henry Lester, resulted in a loss as he had few ideas of how to defend himself when he got fatigued – he could not even hold his arms up to maintain a guard/defence and so, out of frustration, he kneed Lester and was disqualified.
The DQ was the catalyst for what would eventually transform him into a legend. After that fight Marciano claimed that he would have no arguments should he lose due to being out-boxed, yet vowed to never again allow strength nor conditioning become a factor in his contests. In order to improve his endurance, Rocky’s team custom-made their own heavy bag. A regular punching bag in the gym or in your garage at home is typically 7 stones 2 (100lbs). Marciano began training with one that weighed a whopping 21 stones 6 (300lbs).
The fitness benefits of training with the heavy bag are numerous, and include: developing the cardiovascular system, strengthening core muscle groups – arms, shoulders and waist, burning fat and calories and increasing bone density. The primary purpose for the exercise, though, is that the resistance in the heavy bag allows a build-up in one’s punching power.
It stands to logic, therefore, that by increasing the weight of the heavy bag and successfully punching through the bag/moving the bag, then – despite it being an arduous workout – the effects, like they were in Marciano’s career, could be telling. Away from the heavy bag, Marciano took his power punch routine to swimming pools. When he was neck-high in the pool, he would walk from end to end, punching through the water. Because of this, Marciano ended up with cut, broad shoulders.
The effects that such innovative and adaptive ideas to training had on Marciano’s punch power are perhaps best told by what happened to his victims as well as what they said about him after: Carmine Vingo, a man over five inches taller than Rocky and one whom was considered to have a promising career ahead of him, received counts of nine in rounds one and two during his fight with Marciano in 1949, before getting knocked cold in round six. He was hospitalised immediately, deemed to be in a critical condition due to his comatose nature but made a recovery although he never boxed again; Marciano effectively retired him.
The next year, Roland LaStarza also had to pay a visit to hospital after sharing a ring with Rocky due to a broken arm… he also required surgery and suffered multiple blood clots. In 1951 he left Rex Layne’s jaw hanging off it’s hinges and also punched his teeth out of his mouth. Marciano knocked out Joe Louis, who is considered a great rival to Muhammad Ali’s claim to be the number one heavyweight of all time, trumped Archie Moore as well as twice defeating Jersey Joe Walcott. And, in his penultimate fight against Britain’s best, Marciano’s brutal body blows made Don Cockell vomit in between rounds.
Reflecting on his match-up with Marciano in 1955 – Rocky’s last – Moore noted that the knockout he suffered was largely due to the accumulation of punching, rather than the pop contained in each shot. He said: “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,” Moore, who finished his career with a 185-23-10, 131ko record, concluded.
Marciano’s specifics during his prime years: height 5’11, weight – 184lbs, neck – 16.75′, reach 67′, chest normal – 39′, chest expanded – 42′, forearm – 14′, wrist – 7.5′, fist – 11.5′, waist – 32′, thigh – 22′, calf – 14.75′, ankle – 10′.