Rocky Marciano and Generational Bias

marcianoBy Ted Sares -- The latest is the greatest –Anonymous

I am comfortably fixed, and I am not afraid of the future. No man can say what he will do in the future, but barring poverty, the ring has seen the last of me. - Rocky Marciano

I loved Rocky Marciano for any number of reasons not the least of which is that he was from my era and my generation. He did everything he had to do at the time he had to do it, and he did it with a winning percentage of 100 percent! That he was an Italian didn’t hurt much either because back then, ethnicity was a big deal among boxing fans. I also thought he was a great fighter who did what he had to do against everyone they put in from of him. After all, 49-0 is a perfect record..

Of course, looking through the prism of nostalgia makes everything seem better and I like to play out old school memories just like other old timers. However, I also try to be thoughtful and objective when making comparisons between the past and the present–and that’s where the issue of generational prejudice comes in (some call it “era” prejudice). And that’s where comparisons between Marciano and modern fighters come in as well.

Should he be compared to recent heavyweights in the mold of Ali, George Foreman or Wladimir Klitschko? Probably not-- maybe even “of course not.” After all, he simply was not big enough. But how about using the theory of relativity and comparing him to Cruiserweights who fought at (175-200 lb (90.72 kg)? You know, guys like:

O’Neil Bell
Enzo Maccarinelli
Roy Jones Jr.
Vadim Tokarev
Jean Marc Mormeck
David Haye
Emmanuel Nwodo
Matt Godfrey
Steve Cunningham
Rico Hoye
Krzysztof Wlodarczyk
Marco Huck
Grigory Drozd
Johnathon Banks
BJ Flores
Felix Cora Jr.
Dale Brown
Valery Brudov
Wayne Braithwaite
Guillermo Jones
Chris Bryd

Marciano (always fit and ready) fought at a disciplined 183-188 for the most part which places him in the middle of the cruiserweight limit. Looking back, how would he have done against guys like Marvin Camel, Lee Roy Murphy, Carlos Deleon, Dwight Braxton, Boone Pultz, Ralf Rocchigiani Bobby Czyz, Orlin Norris, Fabrice Tiozzo, Vassily Jirov, Virgil Hill, and James Toney? Perhaps the best matches would have been against Evander Holyfield (when he was a cruiserweight champion) and Dariuz Michalczewski.

The Rock had incredible stamina, crunching power (both one-punch and accumulative), deceptive skills (including a solid ring IQ), an iron chin, the ability to destroy an opponent by simply pounding on his arm and shoulders, tenacity, uncommon determination, and a vicious mean streak which was belied by his amiable out-of-the-ring behavior. But in the ring, he was a relentless brawler who just kept coming, boring in and hurting his opponents with shots to any exposed parts of their body until they broke down, at which point he would close matters decisively.

Many argue his opposition was not the best, but he fought the best they had out there. Guys like Phil Muscato, Rex Layne, Moore (IBHF), Charles (IBHF), Walcott (IBHF), Louis (IBHF), Roland LaStarza (57-9), Harry “Kid” Matthews (90-7-6), Carmine Vingo, and many other rugged hombres. Sure, several were past their prime, but that’s not the Rock’s fault. It was a era where fighters continued to take on the top flight opposition right to the end of their careers

When I compare Rocky Marciano to the top cruiserweights, I am comparing apples to apples except for the difference in era. The task, however, is to engage facts before nostalgia. The lesson is to take into account all essential variables when making comparisons between old and modern. Variable such as number of fights, era (for example, the 70‘s were a great time for heavyweights and the 80‘s for middleweights), stamina, training techniques and methodology, records, style, chin, KO percentages, skill-sets, entire body of work, quality of opposition, management, etc.

When this is done, myth is stripped away from facts. When this is done, you are not engaging generational prejudice. Of course, I must confess when I do this; “The Brockton Blockbuster” quickly becomes the greatest cruiserweight in history in my opinion.

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Article posted on 15.08.2009

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