Fight of the Day: Rocky Marciano vs Archie Moore – September 1955

At 5-feet-10 1/2 inches, Rocky Marciano was the second shortest ever to hold the heavyweight championship. He was also on average 189 pounds which is a noticeably light cruiserweight by today’s standards.

Criticised for sluggish foot movement and average defence, he counteracted these claims with his tremendous durability and power. His power came from getting exceptionally low to spring up with power shots. His “Suzie Q”, which was his right cross, was made infamous by contorting Joe Walcott’s face in their first encounter in the 13th round; one of the all-time best knockouts you will ever see.

While Marciano was unpolished inside the ring, Moore was a craftsman who plotted meticulous ring strategies. With an elusive style, he escalated from the light heavyweight division to the blue-ribbon division finding some success. He is ranked as one of the all-time greatest boxers and that accolade is well deserved for his cerebral ring intellect.  He is even credited for developing the famous, “cross defence” we have seen in many great champions, most noticeably perhaps George Foreman, who he later trained.

The challenger created the bout’s first sensation 27 seconds into round two. The cagey Moore rolled from a sloppy overhand right then fired a straight counter right to the chin that dropped the champ. A pitch-perfect counter.

Marciano scrambled to his feet at two but was given a mandatory 8 count controversially. This greatly angered “The mongoose” who uncharacteristically pursued Marciano for the knockout. “Rocko” survived on unsteady legs.

Marciano opened the third with a flurry to the body while Moore responded with a right uppercut off a skilful roll to the left. Rocko was missing energy sapping power shots whilst Moore avoided or blocked.

Both men’s pace picked up considerably at the start of round four, which saw Marciano bull Moore to the ropes. Moores cross defence eluded the haphazard swarming of Marciano and he was able to fight his way back to centre ring. At the centre, Moore found great success, outboxing the champion.

By the one-minute mark of round 5 Marciano, had cut the distance between them, which allowed him to inflict more violence. Digging to the ribs, Moore had to lower is tricky defence. But as Marciano hunted, Moore landed piercing counter rights; stealing the round.

Moore’s nifty boxing continued early in the six. Tricky perpetual jabs with the feint, Moore was showing everyone why he was considered an all-time great. All of that changed shortly before the midway point when a clanging right to the ear drove Moore to the canvas. Moore looked shaky as he arose, and Marciano thronged all over the him. Moore, attempting to regain composure finally fell to a knee from a corkscrew right that struck the challenger’s temple; but was able to make another count.

With predatory instincts, Marciano cracked a rifle-shot right that swivelled Moore’s head, just as the 7th began. Now Rocky knew that to stay centre ring would be a mistake. Whilst Moore remained hurt, Marciano maneuverered the challenger to the ropes to work him over. Moore stayed busy with a jab and occasional dangerous counter right. With less than 10 seconds remaining, a right to the ear caused Moore to collapse. He beat the count.

Round 8 was a clinic of how to stay out of trouble by Moore. Whilst slipping and sliding, he also showed a great chin as Marciano closed the distance with enormous bombs.

Marciano attacked Moore early in round 9, sensing the kill. The champion landed a pair of clean concussive hooks that sat Moore down for the final time in brutal fashion.

Marciano could not have asked for a better way to exit and seal his iconic 49-0 record than by beating a fellow legend in Moore. Remaining the only heavyweight champion to ever complete their career undefeated, his heartbeat out the often bigger and better competition. With this grit, he is without a doubt one of the toughest men to ever lace up a pair of gloves.

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