"Why waltz 10 rounds with an opponent if you can KO him in one?" Rocky Marciano.
It is the Knock Out that excites boxing fans, as much as the Grand Slam in baseball. The power puncher who can take out an opponent with one savage blow at any time in the fight is always going to make for an interesting fight. There have been great sluggers in boxing; Dempsey, Louis, Foreman, Sugar Ray Robinson, Archie Moore, to name a few of the best. The Ring magazine rates the best punchers on the criteria of those who can knock out quality opponents even in the later rounds, and who can knock out heavier opposition. Of the heavywieghts, the September 1997 issue of The Ring rated the three best punchers as Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey, and Rocky Marciano.
Of Marciano they said,"He never sought refuge in a clinch,never tired, and couldn't be hurt....He was an unstoppable force, breaking bodies and spirits. It was a hellish experiance to fight him...Like Dempsey and Louis, he was able to get his whole body into a punch."
When Marciano was destroying all challengers with his blockbuster assault, the U.S. Testing Co. was asked to measure the power of Rocky's wallop. Its findings: "Marciano's knockout blow packs more explosive energy than an armour-piercing bullet and represents as much energy as would be required to spot lift 1000 pounds one foot off the ground." Boxing Illustrated December 1963
Bert Sugar (Foremest Boxing Historian):
"As indestructible as any fighter in history, Marciano walked into-and through- thousands of hard, clean, jolting shots in the manner of a human steamroller, wrecking his opponents with baseball-bat swings to the arms, the midsection, the head, and just about anything else in reach. Always ready to take two or three punches to land one, the determined Marciano melted down the guards of his opponents, and with the shortest arms in the history of the heavyweight division, hewed them down to size." He said of Marciano's right hand power punch, called the "Suzie-Q", "It was one of the most devastating weapons ever brought into a ring."
Where Did the Power Come From?
How does a 187 pound man hit harder than a 200+ pound man when both are trained fighters? There's an axiom in boxing that says "You can’t teach power. Either a fighter is born with it or not." Hundreds and hundreds of fighters have proven it to be true. One heavyweight is a formidable knockout artist while another rarely hurts an opponent and must win by points, even though they might be identical in height, weight, and the size of their muscles.
Part of it lies in how a fighter sets himself when he delivers his blow. A pure boxer stylist will be on his toes, mobile, with little contact with the floor when he hits. The force of his impact comes from his arms and shoulders only. But a slugger, a Jim Jefferies, Joe Louis, Dempsey, Frazier, Foreman, Tyson, or Marciano, will plant his feet flat as he punches, using the floor for leverage to get more of his body weight behind the punch.
Another part is "commitment to the punch". The fighter who is worried about a counter blow is going to hold something back. He wants to be able to block the counter punch if it comes. But, the fighter who has no fear of retaliation, who accepts that he might get hit in return and couldn’t care less, will put everything into the punch. Marciano knew before he stepped into the ring that he would get hit a lot during the course of the fight. He accepted it beforehand and didn’t let it interfere with his intention to bang away at his opponent. When Rocky let go he was totally committed to the punch, putting every ounce of energy and body weight into every punch.
Marciano’s incredible power began in his feet as they pushed off the mat. The energy was fed by his thick, muscular legs, the swivel of his hips, and the twist he’d put into his upper body as he snapped forward his arm and fist.
Where the power came from might be best illustrated in a letter I received from a doctor who works with internal medical problems and trauma. He told me this:
"Now what determines the power of a punch? I mean the formula… The effect of a punch is calculated by the energy applied at the sight of the hit. So the kinetic energy of Marciano's punch, that is the degree of damage the punch would generate, is equal to 1/2 mass x velocity x velocity (1/2mv2).
Rocky's was equal to the mass of the arm plus the weight he shoved forward with body weight. Next, he hit in close. As your arm moves forward the time from beginning to end increases as you increase the distance of the thrown punch. Since velocity = feet per sec, that means the longer the range the less velocity. Now the energy generated is, remember, mass times vel x vel. Well if your punches are so much shorter, traveling only a few inches, your velocity is incredible! And the transmitted energy at impact is enormous! That calculation of energy is the destructive force (damage) to the body. Basically he broke his opponents up inside.
Had George Foreman been a swarmer, he would have been a better fighter. He was a slugger. But as strong as he was he hit from too far away. Frazier was not as powerful as Marciano. He had a similar style, but didn't hit as hard (didn't use shifting weight, etc)."
This generation of power to the point of impact was described by boxing writer Nat Tashman in the July 1986 issue of Boxing Beat:
"Considering the weight advantage Rocky gave away to opponents, few seem to know the key to his power. Fully believing in his ability to take a punch and confident he couldn’t be knocked out, he’d wade in to position himself as close as he could get. Then, like lifting a weight, he’d plant his muscular, stumpy legs and thighs, and swivel-hip his punch. At that point, he was delivering his full 187 pound, adrenaline-loaded wallop for the lights-out contact."
What boxers and sports writers said of Marciano's punching power:
Joe Louis, knocked out by Rocky in the 8th round, said of Marciano,
"It hurt to bump into him....He hits harder than Max Schmeling...this kid is tough enough to beat anyone." He also said, "The Rock didn't know too much about the boxing book, but it wasn't a book he hit me with. It was a whole library of bone crushers."
Jersey Joe Walcott, who lost his title to Marciano in a 13th round KO and a rematch in a 1st round KO, was asked who hit harder, Joe Louis or Rocky Marciano. "Joe could take you out with combinations...Marciano was a one-punch artist. He threw every punch like you throw a baseball, as hard as he could. I have to say, with all respect to Joe, Marciano hit harder."
Archie Moore (KO'd in 9th), when asked by reporters which of Marciano's punches hurt him, said, "Man they all hurt." He also said, "After a fight with Marciano, it felt like you had been beat all over the upper body with a blackjack or hit with rocks."
"He could hurt you, sure, but it was the quantity of his punches. He just had more stamina than anyone else in those days. He was like a bull with gloves."
Floyd Patterson, who knocked out Moore for Rocky's vacated title said, "In the ring he looked sloppy and awkward sometimes, but that was deceptive because he was terribly strong, could punch and take a punch...Jersey Joe Walcott had made him miss for twelve rounds and then Rocky took his title away in the thirteenth. Ezzard Charles seemed to be making him look bad, but Rocky busted up his face something horrible...I respected Marciano"
Jack Dempsey, interviewed in the 1953 fall edition of Fight magazine said, "What everyone forgets is that Marciano can punch harder with a right hand than any modern-day heavyweight. In his first fight with Walcott, Rocky needed only one blow to win the title. The power in his right scrambled Jersey Joe's brains at Chicago."
"I've scored my share of knockouts along the way, but more often than not my opponents got up after being knocked down and had to be knocked down repeatedly. The same is true of Joe Louis. But Marciano needs only one solid smash and it's all over.
That's why I say Rocky Marciano is the hardest-hitting heavyweight champion I have seen."
Carmine Basilio "Today he’d look like a midget against some of those heavyweights around, but he’d clobber them all. A great fighter, very tough."
Roland LaStarza "I would throw a hard punch, then he would throw a hard punch. The difference was that Rocky would throw 10 more. He just never stopped throwing punches."
Harry "Kid" Matthews "He was a great puncher, one of the best of all-time. He just threw one punch after another, and all of them were hard."
Jack Hurley, Harry "Kid" Matthew's manager, "I never saw a fighter so confident, so sure every punch he was throwing was the knockout."
Tommy Loughran (Light heavyweight champion 1927-29) "He is great by accident, or maybe instinct. He moves in and belts you, and wallops you, and moves away, and all by instinct. Then Rocky comes up with that hook, and his whole body is behind it. You have to class him with Jack Dempsey. When the fight started, Dempsey had only one thought-to knock you out. That's Marciano's instinct."
"Marciano's gloved fists broke blood vessels and bones in LaStarza's arms and elbows. First the arms grew heavy, then they began to ache awfully, then they grew numb. As the relentless battle wore on, LaStarza found it harder and harder to raise his arms, much less jab with them or punch with them. His hands lowered, his defense dissipated, Marciano began to punish him about the head. LaStarza began to take a terrible beating." Bill Libby, "The Story of a Champion", 1971.
Fred Brown said, "He hits you with something that looks like a little tap to the crowd, but the guy who gets it shakes right down to his legs."
"A right hand that registered nine on the Richter scale." Red Smith, New York Times sports columnist.
"He's the hardest hitting fighter I've ever seen. After one of his knockouts, I never take my eye off his victims till they move again." Bill Corum, sports writer.
"Rocky Marciano was probably the most ferocious man ever to win the title, and the most relentless." Ebony magazine.
"Why? His man's not that tall." Bugs Baer's reply when Don Cockell's manager requested a 20 foot ring instead of 16 foot.
"Louis is faster with a barrage of punches, but Rocky hurts more with one punch than Joe did with four. Rocky hurts you every time he connects." Response to a reporter from a sparring partner of both Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano.
"Dan, I can still feel his
punches. He kept punching me in the upper arms until I could no longer
hold them up to defend or throw punches". Phil Muscato, 5th round KO victim of Rocky, to his nephew Dan, many years after his fight with Marciano.(Thanks to Dan Muscato).
"He was chastised by the press every time he fought as being a Neanderthal, no concept of boxing, who was going to get beat as soon as he got in with someone who could box, who was gonna make him look silly…It took a long time for the boxing scribes to realize they were in the presence of sheer power." Ferdie Pacheco
Marciano's KO percentage is 88%, the highest of ANY heavyweight champion in the history of boxing!
George Foreman 87%
Joe Frazier 84%
James Jefferies 83%
Jack Dempsey 79%
Joe Louis 78%
Sonny Liston 78%
Max Baer 74%
Archie Moore 73% (I know Archie wasn't a heavyweight, but he did knock out more men than any other fighter in any weight class)