ROCKY MARCIANO, 29-year-old Brockton Bull, is still world heavyweight champion. But he had to travel 15 blistering, bitterly fought rounds, for the first time in his life, before he won a unanimous points decision from Ezzard Charles, Georgia-born former holder of the title, at the Yankee Stadium in Bronx, New York.
The champion suffered a nasty eye injury as early as the fourth round and he bled continuously from the nose. Charles sustained a cut near his right eye and he finished the fight with his face badly swollen. Both needed hospital attention after the battle. Marciano had 10 stitches inserted over his left eye.
It proved to be one of the most exciting and the punishing of world heavyweight fights for some time. Charles gave his all in an attempt to be the first man to regain the elusive title. He boxed with all the old precision, foxed the big hitter whenever he got into his stride, tried to stop the champion with the heaviest punches in his armoury, but all in vain.
Marciano proved once more that not only is he one of the hardest punchers the sport has known, but that he is also one of the toughest.
In defeat, Charles had his greatest hour. He said afterwards that Marciano is not the best fighter he has ever met. “He’s strong and he throws lots of punches, but he didn’t give me as tough a fight as Jersey Joe Walcott did. In fact, all four of my fights with Walcott were tougher. He didn’t hurt me near as much as Walcott.”
Marciano stated afterwards that Ezzard Charles was “The most courageous fighter I ever met. He kinda hindered me at times,” the champion said. “Yep, he hit me some good punches.”
But Rocky got praise from all quarters for the way he fought on to overcome the early eye injury. For 11 rounds the blood ran from the cut and he must have been half blinded for most of the time.
Here indeed is a puncher who can TAKE a punch. A champion who fights like a CHAMPION, and to his critics who before his fight said that the Rock had to knock ’em out to win, Marciano has come through 15 hectic rounds with one of the best boxers at his weight in the world and won a unanimous points decision.
Only two men have taken Marciano beyond 10 rounds before this, his 46th successive winning contest. When he won the title from Jersey Joe in September, 1952, Rocky scored a knockout in the 13th round.
A year later he left it to the 11th round before stopping Roland LaStarza. This was only the seventh points win of Marciano’s six-and-a-half-year-old pro boxing career.
Total takings from attendance television film and broadcasting rights was in the region of £181,030. Marciano’s share was £89,000, while Charles got approximately £45,000.
Although the fight was close all the way, the decision in favour of Marciano was unanimous. Referee Ruby Goldstein gave Marciano eight rounds, Charles five with two even. Judge Harold Barnes made it Marciano eight rounds, Charles six with one even. While the remaining judge, Artie Aidala was even more emphatic in the champ’s favour, marking his card with nine rounds to the champion, five to Charles with one even. Marciano scaled 13st 5 ½ lbs, Charles 13st 3lbs.
Round 1. – The champion got off the mark first, short jabbing Charles to the chest, he took a light counter from Charles to the face then tied the challenger up in a clinch as he came forward to use a right hander. Charles backed away and thumped home two rights to the ribs and avoided a right from Marciano. Both men exchanged rights to the head and near the end of the round Charles stopped the bustling champion with another left jab and drew blood from Rocky’s nose. –Charles’ round.
Round 2. – Charles came from his corner and immediately got home to the body with a right. The champion countered to the body with both hands but Charles smothered his punches. At close range Charles jabbed in two quick lefts to the mouth and then hooked two lefts to the side of Marciano’s head. Rattled, Rocky threw a left and a right at Charles’ head but had to take four punches to the head and body as Charles took the initiative. Rocky was off the beam with another long right and the challenger smashed in a left and right to the jaw. – Charles’ round.
Round 3. – The crowd rose to their feet as both men traded lefts and rights to the head. A right hook sent Charles’ head back on his shoulders. They worked away at close quarters and Marciano kept wiping the blood from his nose. The champion increased the pace near the end and a fast right to the head was partially blocked by Charles, and the coloured man countered with a right to the head. Charles having the better of the in-fighting. – Even round.
Round 4. – Marciano opened up first and thumped a right to the head. But Charles countered smartly and a hard right to face opened a cut on the side of Marciano’s left eye. Another right from Charles caused the blood to flow from the eye injury and Marciano was forced to wipe the blood away, and he appeared to have difficulty in seeing from the damaged optic.
On top and piling on the pressure. Charles whipped up a right uppercut to the jaw, then had the crowd roaring s he drove home four quick punches to the body. Marciano was at a loss to defend himself and, half blinded in the left eye, he was forced to take more lefts and rights to the head as Charles became confident. – Charles’ round.
Round 5. – Charles again scored first as they met in the centre of the ring. A right partially stopped Marciano’s bull-like rush, but the champion brought a left hook into play and Charles gave ground. Two more left hooks from Marciano, then a right to the body, but the Rock missed with a heavy left and after the bell he twice caught Charles to the face bringing only a smile from the still confident challenger. – Marciano’s round.
Round 6. – Marciano came out on a punching spree at the bell smashing home a powerful right to the chin and then followed up with a furious attack to the body that had the crowd yelling. Charles tried to counter but was short, and another right from the champion rocked Charles.
The challenger tried to hold Rocky, who came back to connect with half a dozen vicious blows from all angles. Charles was in trouble for the first time and used all his ring knowledge to keep himself in the fight. Marciano’s eye still bleeding as the round ended. – Marciano’s round.
Round 7. – Charles left his corner to throw a left hook to the body then a right to Marciano’s but eye. Blinking badly as blood still worried the champion’s left eye, Marciano had to fall back as Charles jabbed out a left and the coloured man had partially regained the initiative. Still in the centre of the ring they exchanged punches, but neither man took much out of himself or each other in this round. – Even round.
Round 8. – Rocky was subdued at the start of the session. Charles boxed calmly, jabbing out his left and countering with his right every time Marciano changed position. Missing badly with his heavier blows, Rocky was forced into clinches and Charles had the better of the exchanges, although he came out of one clinch with a slight trickle of blood running from his right eye. – Charles round.
Round 9. – An exchange of rights marked the opening and then Charles jabbed three successive lefts to Marciano’s face and another right to the injured eye. The champion hooked twice to the jaw but there wasn’t a lot of power behind the punches and Charles came in to earn points in the clinches. They traded short rights and Charles’ right eye was swelling visibly by now. The Rock crashed home two rights to the head, then a right uppercut to the chin and Charles countered with a well timed right to the heart. Marciano was on the rampage now and he kept Charles on the defensive to the end of the session. – Marciano’s round.
Round 10. – Off the mark first again Charles jabbed in three successive lefts to the face, then a right to the body and then as Marciano countered, the challenger backpedalled before a typical two-fisted onslaught by the champion. A long right to the jaw from Rocky made Charles’ knees wobble, two following rights sent him backwards and as Marciano charged forward, Charles took another uppercut to the chin and was driven around the ring from an all-out onslaught. – Marciano’s round.
Round 11. – A chopping right from Charles had no effect on Marciano, who came in, head down, smashing forward with his right handers and as Marciano caught him again with a right, Charles jumped in to crash a short right to the point. It was long range stuff this round and both men were hitting out freely without fear or the consequences. – Charles’ round.
Round 12. – Standing his ground, Charles waited for the champion and jabbed hard to the face with his left hand. Marciano was still bleeding from the eye and nose. A wild swing from Rocky nearly aught Charles unawares, but a long right shortly after made Charles gasp and he caught Marciano’s bobbing head with a damaging right cross and followed up with short lefts and rights to the jaw. Back came the champion and he really hurt Charles with one last left to the jaw just before the bell. – Marciano’s round.
Round 13. – Still forcing the pace, Rocky chased his man and swung hard with both hands, but Charles’ defence was still intact and his countering punches caused Rocky’s nose to bleed profusely. Charles again used a left and right as Marciano bore in, but the champ brought up a left uppercut to the jaw which must have hurt. Charles tied his man for a spell in the clinches and just parried two vicious blows from Rocky which were aimed at the head. – Marciano’s round.
Round 14. – Both were showing visible signs of a fast and punishing fight now. Charles shot out a left and right to the face and another right brought a flow of blood from Marciao’s left eye. They exchanged punches with both hands, but Marciano’s were carrying the heavier dig and he kept catching Charles with left uppercuts and hooks. Gamely, the coloured man tried to swap blows but he had nothing in his gloves now and Marciano just shook his head and charged in. – Marciano’s round.
Round 15. – The challenger’s face was now puffed up and he looked very tired. He kept his feet moving, however, and made the champion miss as he charged forwards to throw a vicious right to the head. Both men covered in blood now – Rocky’s blood, but in they went at each other and Charles took a heavy left and right to the head which halted him in his tracks. There was another exciting exchange of blows and Charles was forced back as Marciano used all his artillery at once in an endeavour to land a knockout.
Weary but game, Charles had little to offer now and his hands came down as Rocky battered him against the ropes. But Charles kept his head and he was still there as the final bell brought relief to two tired battered warriors. – Marciano’s round.