July 28th, 1952 – Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, New York.
Unbeaten heavyweight contender Rocky Marciano, 41-0, met fellow contender Harry Matthews, a fighter who had not lost a fight since August of 1943, in a bout that served as a final eliminator for a shot at the title that was currently the property of Jersey Joe Walcott. “The Rock” was 27 years of age, Matthews two years older. The fight was all over in a little over five minutes.
Marciano, as hungry for a shot at the crown as could be imagined, went right at Matthews at the sound of the opening bell. Rocky hunted Matthews’ head and jaw, his powerful hooks being thrown with bad intentions. Matthews, a clever boxer with fast hands, had some success with his sharp counters but the fight was akin to that of a showdown between a tank and a peashooter. Matthews got home with a nice straight right that landed flush on Marciano’s advancing jaw, yet “The Rock” didn’t even blink.
Then, in round two, Marciano landed his finishing blows. Made to look, as reports of the day wrote, “like a novice,” Marciano didn’t care – he knew his crushing blows would get the job done. And they did. Marciano’s smashing left hook landed twice on “Kid’s” head and down he went, heavily. Matthews, on sheer instinct, tried to get back up but he was gone and he collapsed into the bottom rope. It was all over and Rocky would get his shot at Walcott in September.
Walcott, who had won the title at the advanced age of 37 and would be making his second defence, was unimpressed with Marciano’s ability, famously stating how he would retire “if I can’t beat this bum.” Talk about words that came back to haunt a person.
Marciano and Walcott gave us an epic fight to remember on September 23rd of 1952, with Marciano, behind on the score cards, coming back to put Walcott’s lights out in the 13th round of a truly great battle. This time, it was Rocky’s right hand that did the damage. His “Suzy Q.”
An absolute legend was born.