He was one of the all-time greatest heavyweight champions and nearly 65 years ago, at a relatively young age, unbeaten Rocky Marciano hung up his gloves.
The date was April 27th, 1956 and was just seven months after Marciano had defended his heavyweight title for the sixth time against former Light Heavyweight world champion, Archie “The Cobra” Moore.
Many were surprised that that in the relative prime of his career at 32 years old, Marciano would choose to walk away with a 49 – 0 record.
“The Brockton (MA) Blockbuster” first won the title in September 1952 with a dramatic 13th round knockout of then champion, “Jersey Joe” Walcott. We wrote about The Rock’s massive right hand bomb that dropped Wolcott onto one knee unconscious and is still to this day one of the iconic knockout moments in boxing history.
The fighters met again eight months later at Chicago Stadium (May 1953) and this time, and Marciano scored the quick first-round knocked down. Then, Walcott was so dazed that even though he was looking at the referee and trying to get up, he did not beat the 10 count and Marciano was declared the winner.
Marciano would successfully defend the title five more times, including two wins over former champion Ezzard Charles to finish 49 – 0, as a professional.
Marciano still holds the record of any Heavyweight Champ for the most victories ever without a defeat. Although 1980s heavyweight great Larry Holmes did get to 48 – 0 with 20 consecutive successful title defenses of either the WBC or IBF version of the title.
But, then, Light Heavyweight champion Michael Spinks upset him in a controversial 12-round decision in Las Vegas in September of 1985 to end his hopes of tying Marciano. Spinks subsequently validated his win by beating Holmes again by decision in their rematch the following year.
Former Undisputed titleist, Mike Tyson, ascended to 37-0 with nine title defense wins before Buster Douglas upset him by 10th round KO in February 1990. And finally, former WBC Heavyweight Champ, Deontay Wilder, got to 42-0-1 before Tyson Fury defeated him by 7th TKO this past February.
Back to Marciano, he was killed in a plane crash in August of 1969 the day before his 46th birthday and he is still regarded a half-century later, as one of the greatest heavyweight fighters ever.