It’s one of the most famous and revered set of numbers in the sport of boxing: heavyweight immortal Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record. Ever since “The Rock” said goodbye to the ring with his perfect ledger, have heavyweights tried to break the record the hugely popular fighter (hugely popular in both life and in death) left behind. Larry Holmes came closest, in 1985, when he defeated Carl Williams to extends his record to 48-0. A controversial and very bitter (for Holmes) loss to Michael Spinks in a heavily hyped fight that same year ruined Larry’s aims to tie with Marciano’s magical numbers.
At one point, when he was seen as invincible and was destroying all in his path, Mike Tyson looked to be well on his way to surpassing Rocky’s record. In the end, an ill disciplined and, some say, overrated Tyson fell in his 38th pro bout, leaving Marciano’s record safely where it resides today. But one legendary cruiserweight and heavyweight king who made more than a little bit of boxing history himself, in Evander Holyfield – the only man to have won a version of the heavyweight crown on four different occasions – feels there is a new kid on the block who has “a great chance” when it comes to breaking Rocky’s record.
Holyfield, recognised as the single finest cruiserweight in the division’s history (now there’s a Dream Fight if ever there was one: Holyfield Vs. Marciano at 200-pounds, a poundage reasonably close to Rocky’s ideal fighting weight) spoke with Gareth A Davies of The Telegraph, and he told him he thinks Anthony Joshua is capable of going down in the annals of the sport as something special. Holyfield says Joshua has not been moved too quickly to championship level and that he is a genuine talent.
“It’s a great thing for Anthony Joshua to be winning at this level, at this stage” Holyfield said to Davies. “He’s good enough, in my view. Leon Spinks fought Muhammad Ali in his eighth fight. That means it’s a person who has got the talent. Sometimes we just have to do it now, in that moment, because that moment can be lost. He’s brand new and fresh. He’s the champion in his 16th fight. He’s got a great chance at breaking Rocky Marciano’s record. He could get to that 49-0 and he won’t even be old.”
It goes without saying that Joshua, 16-0(16) and yet to be extended beyond the 7th-round, has a whole lot of work ahead of him if he’s even to come close to beating Rocky’s record. 33 fights, to tie the record, is a helluva lot of ring time; even if Joshua continues bowling opponents over in a good number of his bouts. At three fights a year, that’s 11 years for AJ to get there! At age 26 now, Joshua would be 37 by that time. Will Joshua even be fighting then?
Holyfield has certainly seen something potentially special in the reigning IBF champ, but the big fights, the big tests, still await the talented fighter who has been referred to by a number of good judges as a work, and a champion, in progress.