When one punch brought heavyweight fortune

marcianoBy Mike Dunn - The heavyweight division has seen some dramatic changing of the guard through the years, particularly when a one-punch KO has been involved. The single-punch KO has been responsible for gaining the ownership of sport's richest crown a surprising number of times. Going back to 1897 when Bob Fitzsimmons ascended to the title with an expertly placed left hook to the solar plexus of Jim Corbett, the linear title has been wrested by one punch on at least five occasions.

Of those title bouts where fortune smiled upon the slugger, these three are the most electrifying:

1. Rocky Marciano vs. Jersey Joe Walcott

This is far and away the most dramatic single-punch victory in the annals of the heavyweight division. The unbeaten Marciano challenged for Walcott's title on Sept. 23, 1952 in Philadelphia's Municipal Stadium (the same venue where Tunney decisioned Dempsey in the rain in September of 1926).. Marciano had been knocked down by a vicious left hook in the first round and the fighters had an engaged in a fierce all-out war since then. Marciano, bloodied and bruised but unbowed, was behind on all three scorecards entering the 13th round with no chance of winning a decision. All Walcott had to do to retain the title was hear the bell at the end of the 15th round.

In the midst of the 13th round, however, Rocky landed a concise, power-laden right hand to Walcott's chin as the champ was backing toward the ropes. Walcott was out before he ever reached the canvas.

2. Bob Fitzsimmons vs. Jim Corbett

Fitzsimmons was a legitimate middleweight when he challenged Corbett for the title in a specially erected outdoor arena in Carson City, Nevada on March 17, 1897. Corbett, who was himself little more than a light heavyweight, had controlled the fight with his masterful boxing through the early rounds, bloodying Fitz's mouth and knocking him down in the fifth round. Fitz, who possessed unusual upper body strength for someone his weight and the leverage to drop much heavier opponents like an oak tree, bided his time patiently as the bout progressed, believing his opportunity would come to take Corbett out after the champ became fatigued.

Fitz told his cornerman Robert Davis between the 13th and 14th rounds to bet all the money he had on a knockout in the next round. Davis did so and Fitz delivered the goods. The spindly Cornishman -- exhorted by his wife Rose to hit Corbett "in the slats" -- saw his opportunity and landed his left squarely in Corbett's solar plexus. Corbett was counted out on one knee, unable to catch his breath.

3. George Foreman v. Michael Moorer

Big George was a man full of surprises in his "second" ring career. In 1974, he had been favored in his title defense against Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle and Ali "shocked the world" with an 8-round KO, regaining the crown and doing away with George's aura of invincibility at the same time. Now it's 20 years later and a reborn Foreman is challenging Michael Moorer for the title in the MGM Grand ring of Las Vegas.

George had acquitted himself pretty well entering the 10th round but was trailing Moorer on all three scorecards. George, his face bruised and looking tired, was the one who shocked the world this time, marshalling his resources and delivering a crisp right to Moorer's chin, separating the lefty from his senses and the title belt with one blow. George regained the crown at the age of 45.

Lumbering Primo Carnera, the muscle-laden Italian backed by the mob, claimed the crown from Jack Sharkey in June of 1933 in Long Island with either the most well-placed single blow of his career, a right uppercut in the sixth round, or Sharkey was paid to take a dive, which some believe is the case. In July of 1951 in Pittsburgh's Forbes Field, Jersey Joe Walcott found the chin of Ezzard Charles in the seventh round with a devastating left hook-uppercut and captured the title in his unprecedented fifth opportunity as a challenger.

Walcott, coincidentally, is the only heavyweight champ to both win the title with one blow and lose it the same way. Sharkey has the distinction of losing the title twice with a single blow. In June of 1930, Max Schmeling was awarded the title by disqualification when Sharkey delivered a very low left in the fourth round. Sharkey subsequently won the title from Schmeling via a controversial decision and then lost it in 1933 when big Primo connected with the uppercut.

Some other title fights that ended with one punch -- such as Jim Jeffries knocking out Fitzsimmons with a left hook in the 11th round in 1899 in the Coney Island Athletic Club, Jess Willard disposing of Jack Johnson with a long right cross in round 26 in Havana in April of 1915, and Floyd Patterson regaining the title from Ingemar Johannson with a lethal leaping left in the Polo Grounds in 1960 -- were just as much the result of accumulated blows as the final punch.

Mike Dunn is a writer and boxing historian living in Lake City, Mich.

Article posted on 29.01.2011

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