How do you define greatness?

Image: How do you define greatness?

By Gavin Howie: Someone with a god given talent, an extensive amateur background and naturally skilled in the school of boxing?

Perhaps you prefer someone a bit more unconventional, who has limited or no amateur pedigree, no natural born skill but makes up for this with the heart of a lion, granite chin and a determination to succeed when others expect him to fail?

I give you Rocky Marciano. A man who never quite gets the credit he so truly deserves for his achievements in the ring.

Rocco Francis Marchegiano born on September 1st 1923 on the south side of Brockton Massachusetts. When he was only 18 months old contracted pneumonia, and almost died. He was a fighter from early on, who would not accept defeat. In March 1943 he was drafted into the army sanctioned in Swansea, Wales. After the war had ended, he completed his service in March 1946. He went on to represent the army and won the 1946 Amateur Armed Forces boxing tournament. He had a very brief amateur career that was interrupted on March 17, 1947 where he made his professional debut scoring a 3rd round knockout over Lee Epperson. His journey had now begun. He would go on to become undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, but even then he would sadly have his doubters and critics to this day.

Hypothetical predictions between certain fighters, are a matter of debate, not fact. Who is to say how Marciano would have dealt with the other legends of the heavyweight division. There have been so many great heavyweights over the years. Louis, Tyson, Ali, Foreman, Frazier etc. The only legend Marciano defeated was a past his prime Louis, and even then he was the underdog. He won by an 8th round KO. How he would have got on with a peak Louis or any of the others is only an opinion. He was always the underdog and always found a way. The difference is, every single 1 of these fighters lost. Marciano’s closest victory came on March 24 1950 against Roland La Starza. The bout was scored 5-4 4-5 and 5-5. Marciano won on a supplemental point scoring system. The referee decided the bout and gave it to Marciano. This scoring did not include an extra point for a knockdown Marciano scored which would have made it more conclusive. Marciano fought La Starza some 3 years later, and won by an 11th round ko.

Most boxing pundits, experts, ex pros alike who compose a list of all time greats and top p4p of all time never have Marciano no1. He is usually lucky to even scrape in the top 10. These lists have all the usual suspects; Robinson, Ali, Leonard etc etc. I cant argue that they are all great boxers, and deserving of all the accolades they receive. Marciano however usually receives nothing but negativity; he didn’t have the names on his record, he was slow, just a slugger, he didn’t have the silky skills of a Robinson, and wasn’t as popular as Ali. Would it not be more accurate to focus on what he actually was?

Rocky Marciano was a man who weighed around 185lbs, had a height of 5 ft 10, and a reach of only 68”, which is some 4 inches shorter than even Floyd Mayweather (who started off as a Super Feather). To put this in comparison, Rocky would likely have been a middleweight in today’s boxing society. Considering his lack of skills, size and weight, where he would be up against much larger men. He beat every single one of them. He only got knocked down twice in his career. For him to have amassed a ko ratio of 88% and an undefeated record in the heavyweight division is undeniably extraordinary. He may not have had the glamour names in the 50s, but he done what he could with what he had, and that was to retire undefeated Heavyweight champion of the world. 49-0 43 KOs. You can’t teach what he had. You are born with it. Legend. Greatest.