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Rocky Marciano killed in a plane crash August 31, 1969

By Sam Gregory: August 31, 1969 Rocky Marciano died when the small plane he was traveling in crashed in Iowa, a day before this 46th birthday 41 years ago.

On June 5, 1952 Jersey Joe Walcott defended his heavyweight title for the last time. Thirty-eight year old Walcott beat Ezzard Charles in a fifteen round unanimous decision.

Three months later Rocky Marciano challenged Jersey Joe for the heavyweight title. On September 23, 1952 in Philadelphia’s Municipal Stadium a crowd of 40,379 fans witnessed Rocky Marciano stop Walcott in the thirteenth round to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. The paid attendance that day was $504,645.

In the first round of the fight Walcott dropped Marciano with a left hook. It was the first time Rocky had been knocked down in forty-three fights. From then on it was a bloody battle between two great heavyweights. After twelve rounds Walcott was ahead on all three scorecards. Both judge’s and the referee had Walcott easily winning the fight after twelve rounds. The only way Marciano could win the fight was with a knockout.

In the thirteenth round Marciano had Jersey Joe against the ropes when he landed a crushing right to Walcott’s head. The punch had Jersey Joe slumped on the canvas with one arm hanging over the bottom rope when referee Charlie Daggert counted him out at .43 of the thirteenth round.

Marciano’s pet name for his piston-like right was “Suzie Q”. it quickly became known as the winning punch in many of his fights.

The rematch was May 15, 1953 in Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois. This time Suzie Q was the punch that KOed Walcott at 2:25 of the first round in his first title defense.

At 5’10” tall and 185 pounds, Marciano was smaller in stature than most professional heavyweight. But Rocky fought from a crouched position making him a harder target to hit. Other assets that helped “The Rock” prevail was his solid chin, a relentless desire to win and his power. Known as one of the hardest punchers in the sport, out of 49 wins all but 6 were by KO.

That’s a record of 49 wins, no loses, no draws, with 43 knockouts.

Marciano made his first major impact in the heavyweight division in 1950 when he won a ten round split decision against then undefeated heavyweight contender Roland La Starza. It was one of only six decisions Rocky won, but La Starza never let up on his relentless claim that he won the fight. he badgered Marciano with quotes to the press saying, “Marciano must be punch drunk from all the punches he’s been taking to think he won the fight.”

Rocky was furious with La Starza, saying he would make him eat his words in a rematch.

Marciano did just that on September 24, 1953. By then La Starza’s record had slipped to 54-3, while Marciano was still undefeated at 44-0.

In the rematch La Starza was able to frustrate Marciano with his clever defensive skills and well executed combinations. Finally Charley Goldman, Marciano’s trainer, told his frustrated fighter to, “Bang his arms until he brings them down.” From that point on Rocky did just that, savagely beating La Starza’s arms and upper body.

By the tenth round La Starza could barley lift his gloves above his shoulders. By the eleventh round Marciano had him badly battered. After finally knocking La Starza through the ropes, referee Ruby Goldstein stopped the slaughter after the eleventh round. Marciano won by way of eleventh round TKO in Ring magazines 1953 Fight of the Year. La Starza had chipped bones in his elbows and ruptured blood vessels on his forearms that had to be surgically repaired.

It was the July 12th, 1951 stoppage of Rex Layne at Madison Square Garden and the fourth round KO of Freddie Beshore a month later on August 27th at the Boston Garden that brought Rocky Marciano into the championship limelight.

In October of 1951 Joe Louis was on the comeback trail, racking up wins over a few lesser known opponents en route to a shot at regaining the heavyweight title. This was a fight Rocky really didn’t want. Rocky stated he didn’t want to fight Lois because The Brown Bomber had always been his idol.

In the dressing room before the fight Rocky was quoted as saying, “This is the last guy on earth I want to fight.”

As it turned out, neither fighter had much of a choice. Joe Louis was being hounded by the IRS for back taxes and Rocky needed the fight to avoid any delay for his chance at a title fight.

The fight did turn out to be better than expected as the aging Louis showed he was still one of the best fighters of the era.

As the fight progressed it became apparent the Louis’ punches weren’t hurting Rocky, but Marciano’s punches were hurting Louis.

Between rounds seven and eight Louis told his trainer, “He’s hurtin’ me Chappie, he’s hurtin’ me.” Marciano ended the fight in the eighth with several punches that sent the ex-champ threw the ropes. It was Louis’ last fight, the end of a remarkable career.

After the fight Louis was quoted as saying, “When he beat me, I think it hurt him worse than it hurt me.”

The Louis fight was followed by Marciano’s kayo victories over Lee Savold, Gino Buonvino, Bernie Reynolds and Harry “Kid” Matthews.

Those fights cleared the way for his heavyweight championship fight with Walcott.

Winning the heavyweight crown from Jersey Joe Walcott was the icing on the cake that made the Brockton Blockbuster a household name.

In 1954 Rocky Marciano defended hi0s heavyweight title twice against former heavyweight champ Ezzard Charles. Both fights were held at Yankee Stadium in 1954. The first on June 17th and the second exactly three months later on September 17th were both brutal wars. Ezzard Charles is considered one of the greatest pound for pound fighters of all time. Before his fight with Marciano, Charles beat Joey Maxim three times, Archie Moore three times, Joe Louis once and Jersey Joe Walcott twice.

Both of the Marciano-Charles fights were two of the most savage fights of all time. The second Marciano-Charles fight was Ring magazines 1954 Fight of the Year.

Marciano’s last fight was against Archie Moore in New York on September 21, 1955. The fight was just one more brutal bloody war for The Rock. Moore dropped Marciano in the second round. For only the second time in his career, Rocky would touch the canvas. Moore was knocked down in the second round for a “2” count, he was down in the sixth and twice more in the eighth. Marciano won the fight by ninth round KO. After this fight, Marciano retired with an unblemished record of 49-0 with 43 KO’s.

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