Classic Fights: Marciano KOs Charles

By Robert Ecksel on March 26, 2017
Classic Fights: Marciano KOs Charles
Assessing the damage, Marciano paid tribute to the man he had beaten a second time.

“Ezzard Charles was the toughest man I ever fought,” said Marciano. “I learned what pain was all about when I fought him…”

“What could be better than walking down any street in any city and knowing you’re the heavyweight champion of the world?”—Rocky Marciano

On September 17, 1954, at Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York, Rocky Marciano (46-0), “The Brockton Blockbuster” from Brockton, Massachusetts, successfully defended his World Heavyweight Title by knocking out former NBA Heavyweight Champion Ezzard Charles (85-11-1), from Cincinnati, Ohio, in the second of their two fights.

Their first fight was also at Yankee Stadium, on June 17, 1954. Thirty-year old Marciano looked unstoppable and was a 9 to 2 favorite to end it early.

Charles was three years older than The Rock. He was a cagey veteran who had seen and done it all. Technically superior with a higher ring IQ than the champ, Charles knew every trick in the book and extended Marciano the full 15 rounds but lost a close unanimous decision.

“He gave me a helluva fight,” said Marciano. “It was as tough as my first fight with Jersey Joe Walcott, maybe tougher.

“He deserves a return fight if he wants it.”

Charles wanted it. He had earned another shot at the title.

“I want him again,” the Cobra said. “I thought I won. I think I came closer to knocking him out than he did me. The next time it will be different.”

In a Fight Post-Mortem by Al Abrams in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he described the first fight as a “primeval brawl,” before lavishing praise on the champion.

“Marciano continues his reign as the heavyweight champion, his crown resting firmly atop a slashed, bruised and battered heard. The king of the top division in fistiana won beyond a shadow of a doubt but not until he was given the fight of his life.”

Abrams also lauded the challenger.

“For Charles, who had a chance to rewrite boxing history, go the laurels and cheers for one of the most courageous stands in title bout history. Even those who were at times suspicious of Charles’ gameness were to the first to hail the gallant loser after a savagely fought brawl. To say that Charles was more magnificent in defeat than ever in victory is putting it mildly.”

Our correspondent in Pittsburgh waxed poetic about Rocky’s endurance.

“In defiance of the accepted chemical analysis that humans are made of bone, blood and muscle, we move to disagree where Marciano is concerned. There must be steel and iron somewhere in his makeup. His squat and powerful body rolls on like tank mindful of dents and cuts slashed into it by expert marksmen such as Charles.”

Referee Ruby Goldstein said this about the fight:

“Charles was a very good, smart fighter, who still employed the tactics he had as a middleweight. He gave Marciano trouble for the first ten rounds. He came at him fast with an assortment of punches, and he hit Rocky with a lot of combinations where he’d put together five or six punches in a row. Most fighters would grab on and wait for their head to clear after being hit by a good combination. But this is where Marciano was a discouraging-type fighter. After a fighter hit him with some of his best punches, Rocky would come chasing right back after him, back him up against the ropes, and throw seven or eight punches of his own.”

The rematch took place three months later. Marciano, wearing black trunks, came into the ring weighing 187 pounds. Charles, in white trunks, weighed 192½. Charles kept Marciano at bay in round one. The champ dropped Charles in the second with a big right hand. He was up at the count of two and made it through the round, but ate another right at the bell.

Working the head and body, hitting anything and everything within reach, Marciano was unforgiving.

The Cincinnati Cobra had fought and defeated Joe Louis, Jersey Joe Walcott, Lee Oma, Joey Maxim, Rex Lane, Cesar Brion and Bob Satterfield. But Marciano was another story.

In round six Charles caught Marciano with an elbow that split his nose in two. Ahead on the scorecards but bleeding profusely, Marciano’s face looked “like a Halloween mask.”

“With blood flowing from a gashed nose and right eye,” wrote Joe Hand in the September 18, 1954, Lewiston Daily Sun, “the unbeaten titleholder swarmed to the kill with a barrage of punches that ended Charles’ fond dreams of becoming the first former champion to win back the championship.”

Marciano had Charles in trouble in the seventh and dropped him a second time in the eighth, before landing six unanswered punches that put him on the canvas a third and final time. Marciano was declared winner and still champion at 2:36.

“Charles’ face was ballooned out of proportion and he claimed that a right uppercut he caught in the adam’s apple ‘in the eighth or ninth round’ was his most painful injury. Ezzard also was cut at the edge of the right eyebrow.”

Assessing the damage he had done, Marciano paid tribute to the man he had beaten a second time.

“Ezzard Charles was the toughest man I ever fought,” he said. “I learned what pain was all about when I fought him.”

Ring Magazine named the bout Fight of the Year.

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Classic Fights: Marciano KOs Charles
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Rocky Marciano vs Ezzard Charles, II



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  1. Captain MAGA 05:52pm, 03/29/2017

    Marciano never looked better than he did in the Moore fight IMO. At least not in the fights that I’ve seen of him. Great win to go out with. Off topic,  I think Brady should have retired after this last Super Bowl. Would have been a story book ending to his great career, without a doubt, the greatest QB of all time. Back to boxing, Marciano even did roadwork when he was not in training, the guy was never out of shape. He might have invented hill training before Walter Payton. haha. Guy would perform sprint after sprint up a hill and jog backwards back down the hill. Marciano could have been the first boxer to do that punching in a pool thingie as well, it certainly didn’t hurt his power. He also adopted the Archie Moore diet of chewing a piece of steak over and over to get the nourishment from the piece of meat before discarding the chewed up meat, to keep his weight down. The guy was a fanatic. I’ve never seen a heavyweight trow punches like Marciano in the Moore fight. What a machine that guy was. As for stopping fights, a lot of those Saad fights back in the day could have very well been stopped sooner, particularly Franklin/Saad vs. Johnson II and Saad vs Yaqui Lopez II. Two of the very best fights of the late 70’s and early 80’s.

  2. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 04:50pm, 03/29/2017

    Capitan Maga-Think for a minute of Rocky’s incredible work rate in his last fight with Archie Moore. Constant upper body movement and always throwing hard shot after hard shot after more hard shots. The fight could have been stopped any number of times with Moore drooping and staggering after onslaughts that never seemed to stop but he kept going. I have an idea why Moore lasted as long as he did and it has a lot to do with what Greg Haugen said years ago about, “some of these guys try harder against me”. Hell, a lot of the bouts in the past would have been stopped in the present day to protect fighters who were on the receiving end of a hellish beating. Even more recently I say that the Foreman/Lyle fight could have been stopped sooner to save either guy from more punishment.

  3. CAPTAIN MAGA 04:58pm, 03/28/2017

    BTW, it was said that Marciano spent about 9-10 months out of the year in some phase of training. He was obsessed with fitness. I doubt that Marciano was ever above 10lbs of his fighting weight at any time while he was active.

  4. Captain MAGA 12:39pm, 03/28/2017

    nicolas .... Perhaps no other heavyweight fighter ever trained as hard as Marciano, hell, few fighters regardless of weight class, trained that hard. I’m sure if some of these heavyweights today trained like Marciano, they would weigh a good deal less. I would bet that Marciano could have easily entered the ring at least 10lbs heavier and would have been in good shape, but not the kind of fanatical shape that he whipped himself into. Personally, I had a friend of mine, who is about 5’9” and weighed about a buck ninety at the time. He was fairly muscular from having lifted weights in the past, so he wasn’t sloppy or flabby. Anyhow, he eschewed the weights, drinking alcohol,  and junk food, and started doing daily roadwork, calisthenics, and hitting the heavy bag only. He was running about 6 miles a day and he literally trained for 90 straight days. After 90 days, his weight had dropped to 135lbs and he had to wear a 29” size in the waist for jeans. The guy has recently ballooned back up to 220lbs.

  5. nicolas 11:54am, 03/28/2017

    As a very young person, I once read that George Mikan, who played for the then Minnesota Lakers, was considered too big at 6 foot 8, in that he would be considered too clumsy, that back in the 1940’s. Don’t know how true that is. I always wondered how Marciano would have fought against Nino Valdez, the guy who previously beat Charles. He was around 210 at the time, which was big for a heavyweight in the 50’s. Considering how Marciano ballooned up after his fighting days, I wonder if he had a walking around weight like today’s boxers in the lower weight categories had. I would also suggest that heavyweight boxing really changed greatly when Liston at 215 beat Patterson at 188 with the first round knockout. Patterson probably a better boxer than Liston might have fared far better had he been at the natural weight that Liston might have been.

  6. Captain MAGA 03:34pm, 03/27/2017

    Has to be a point when carrying that extra size becomes more of a burden than an asset though. The ticker having to work overtime pumping blood through a 6’8” 250lb body. Especially in sports like boxing. There are substitutions in basketball and football.  Oh sh*t, boxing.com, has me brainwashed. Next thing I’ll be saying Greb could kick Wlad’s arse.

  7. CAPTAIN MAGA 08:36am, 03/27/2017

    Irish….Spot on. hehe. The fan base watching an NFL game or NCAA college football is the same. Wonder if Kaeperdick can play basketball. I hear that he’s out of work. haha. Money talks.

  8. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:41am, 03/27/2017

    Capitan Maga-How about a hundred pound pull in weight or more?! Nickolay Valuev at 330 lbs! Here’s another hot flash….the players in the NBA have outgrown the basketball court in every direction especially up but also sideways and all around. Consider that all of the action takes place in an area the size of one half of a tennis court! Forget the rim….any number of players can jump and touch the top of the backboard. Waiting for the time when one bans his head into the rim and gets KTFO! Add to that players are permitted to run with the ball so….look out below! 99% of the fans in the crowd who pay the freight are whites who can’t run or jump worth a fuk so….with them and their thousand(s) dollar seats it’s all ooh! ahh!

  9. Captain MAGA 03:57pm, 03/26/2017

    Spotting 6-8 inches in height, 50lbs or so in weight, and over a foot in reach, would be asking a helluva lot for sure. Remember watching Bobby Czyz fight Corrie Sanders years ago. The 6’4” Sanders towered over Czyz. It looked like a father sparring with his 13 year old son. Dwight Qawi didn’t do too bad against Foreman while it lasted. Agree that these giants of today are far more athletic and skilled than those big fellows from the past.

  10. Lucas McCain 01:08pm, 03/26/2017

    The Rock could hardly be expected to compete with Liston and Foreman, much less the behemoths of today (though I think he’d have pulled off an upset or two).  But “big men” are bigger today, less clumsy than the Buddy Baers of yesteryear, and, given the changes in nutritional practices, and whatever other factors have gone into today’s growth spurts (my father was bigger than his father, I’m bigger than both of them), who’s to say how big Rocky would have been had he born in in, say 1990?  Bigger than George Chuvalo?  “Awkwardly clever” as Art Rust, Jr. used to say of Rocky, he would have used a bigger body to advantage.  As things stand, I still marvel at what he did in the ring.

  11. Captain MAGA 12:36pm, 03/26/2017

    Da Rock was small for a heavy but his conditioning was Xtra special. He’s one of the “small” heavyweights that I go back and forth on. He was so durable, so determined, that perhaps with his conditioning, he could have worn these giants down. Would be a tall order for sure. Just hard to know because Rocky never faced a fighter the size of these guys around today. I think Rocky looked his best in this fight and in his final bout against Moore.

  12. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 11:53am, 03/26/2017

    Nowadays cruiserweights show up fight night 20 plus pounds heavier than Rocky’s 187. Rocky only had a couple of pounds pull on the Jacobs that showed up Saturday before last who would have had a two or three inch height advantage and a five or six inch reach advantage on Rocky! Lots and lots of stupid commentary and posts on this site ignoring the size and weight and yes even strength difference that night that enabled Jacobs to last and then claim he won!

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